Kevin Durant went through a 10-year introduction to the NBA as a ring-less superstar. In Year 11, Durant led the Golden State Warriors to their second championship in three years, defeating King James and the defending champion Cleveland Caveliers in a 4-1 Finals throwdown.
Many people do not want to justify Durant’s successful championship mission because he left OKC to join the team that beat him in order to get to the 2016 Finals, which is understandable. I originally disagreed with his sentiment to join the Warriors because he was so close to getting to the Finals without them. However, we cannot fault the man for exercising the new trend of the NBA: doing whatever it takes to get a ring, even if it means leaving a seemingly good thing to join forces with a “super team-like” force to do it.
When The King himself left Cleveland to join forces with D-Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, he elevated his game (especially come playoff time) and eventually won two titles and went to the Finals four straight years. Some could argue that his years in Miami gave him the ultimate launching pad to make his legacy that much more legendary.
During Durant’s time in OKC, the 6’11 scoring machine averaged 27 points, one block, one steal, seven rebounds and four assists. In the regular season with the Warriors, he picked up right where he left off, averaging 25 points, five assists, eight rebounds and two blocks.
Come playoff time, in OKC he averaged 29 points, eight rebounds, one block, one steal and four assists. He averaged the same numbers with the Warriors this postseason, with going to the Finals in both eras. Even in his transition, he brought continuity with his production.
Before the season began, I stated that in order for Durant to silence the critics and justify his decision to go to a championship team that had a 73-9 regular season and he lost a 3-1 lead to in the Western Conference Finals, he would not only have to win the championship, but lead the Warriors in the effort.
Durant made his transition to put himself in a better position to take another shot at The King in the Finals, and when his chance came, he did not just disappoint, but ultimately regained redemption in one of the most memorable Finals performances ever. He led all scorers with 35 points a game while getting five assists and eight rebounds a contest, shooting 57 percent from the field and 47 percent from the three. Not to mention that he won the Finals MVP unanimously.
“He’s the only person that I was looking at since 2012,” Durant said, per Doris Burke via ESPN. “He’s the only one that I looked at and said, ‘He’s the only guy that can look me eye-to-eye.’ And I knew it was gonna be a battle. I was trying to challenge him. He averaged a damn triple-double. Can’t stop the guy. But we battled, and I told him, ‘We tied up now.'”
But the shocking thing is the fact that KD did not just elevate his game and got better, he also elevated the Warriors, making them an even more historic team and arguably one of the greatest playoff teams ever assembled with a 16-1 postseason record.
To play against one of the greatest players of all-time and overthrow him on the game’s biggest stage in the fashion that he did, Durant has not just solidified not his decision to join a historic team in the face of alienating a beloved fan base, but he also make a case to possibly be the best player in the game and elevate the historical team to heights possibly no one has seen before.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University