Kevin Durant gave everything he had to the Warriors organization. And in the end, he was still the second fiddle, second-best. No matter how hard he tried, or how much he put his body and career on the line physically, he was always going to be in the shadows of the man that “ruined the game,” Stephen Curry.
Curry, the Warriors’ first-round pick from 2009 who’s grown as much as the team through the last decade, is the face of the Warriors. Durant was never going to be that or even part of it.
Even though the Warriors are still one of the teams to beat next year, Durant still felt compelled to leave the Bay Area for Brooklyn, to a Nets team that somehow managed to find the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season and won just one of their playoff games.
Not only did he find “where Brooklyn at,” Durant took less money to head East. Durant agreed to a four-year, $164 million deal with the Nets over the Warriors, who offered the max deal of five years for $221 million.
Durant was offered two max deals by both teams and took less overall in the end.
Also, remember that Durant isn’t suiting up in Brooklyn’s black and white until 2020 while he rehabs from the torn Achilles he gave to the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
But, according to “a source close to Durant,” Durant was tired of playing second to Curry, Kerr and the “circus” that has become the Golden State Warriors.
“What some found refreshing about the Warriors — their big personalities, their outspokenness on both on- and off-court issues — Durant found distracting. He wanted a team that placed basketball above all else,” Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck said of Durant’s situation and exit of Golden State.
While Durant was keenly focused on the court, Curry was building his brand and recording his documentary on Facebook Live’s “Stephen vs, The Game,” while Steve Kerr was taking on politics and President Donald Trump. The Warriors, credit to their recent success, have become a media and marketing circus since their rocket-like rise to the top of the basketball world.
Durant had one foot out the door this season already, according to former teammate Kendrick Perkins, who loves Durant’s move to Brooklyn. Perkins adds that the Warriors made Durant feel unappreciated amongst many other things that happened behind closed doors in Oakland.
Durant’s arrival to the Warriors in 2016 was overly publicized and criticized as someone joining a championship bandwagon. He became the villain he never really sought out to be, even with the impact he made in the Bay Area off of the court.
He was never really celebrated for his elite achievements nor his back-to-back NBA Finals MVPs, All-Star nods, and the like.
Now-former teammate Draymond Green even reminded Durant that they won a championship without him and said that they didn’t need him.
People tend to forget that they also lost a Finals without him too. With him, they won two more championships and went back to three straight Finals. In ways, the Warriors and the Bay Area took Durant and his skills for granted.
After Durant gave up his Achilles, his 2019-20 season, and his $200 million payday after getting re-injured in Game 5 of this year’s NBA Finals, fans and the team finally showed up with rally towels that paid half homage to Durant, and the rest to Oakland. The rally towels read “For Oakland” while accented to also tribute Durant.
It was only after giving up just about everything that he became a hero in the spoiled Bay Area. It was only after he left that the Warriors decided to retire his No. 35 jersey.
It was by then too little and is now way too late.
“All that showed a lack of respect for one of the greatest players to put that uniform on and the fact that he took all that abuse and still put his career on the line to help them win,” a source close to Durant said to The Undefeated.
Durant’s road to Brooklyn has also been the plan all along, Beck added. He’s planned to play alongside his friends Kyrie Irving and Deandre Jordan in 2019, the question then, was where, and now, the where is in Brooklyn.
Whether or not both Irving and Durant can actually co-exist together in Brooklyn’s new big three remains to be seen. Durant won’t play until 2020, which leaves Irving to be the de-facto leader on the court for 2019.
In his younger days, Irving clashed with LeBron James despite winning a title in 2016 over Golden State. He also left Boston in a very bitter taste as he couldn’t bond well with his teammates. Maybe with Durant there and coming back a year later, Irving, reportedly more mature now than before, can establish himself as the Hall-of-Famer he plays as.
Durant, on the other hand, now has a team to call his own. While he’ll have to co-exist with Irving, Durant is by far the new leader of the Brooklyn Nets. After never being able to win in Oklahoma City, then playing second-fiddle to Curry and Co. in Oakland, he has his team in Brooklyn.
No circus (yet), and a lot of excitement and appreciation from fans, peers and the organization alike who decided to offer a max deal despite his upcoming redshirt year.
Kevin Durant wanted to establish his own legacy. If he can lead this Nets team to back to the Finals for the first time since the turn of the millennium, he’ll do so – starting in 2020.