When Kevin Durant went to the Golden State Warriors in 2016 people wondered if it would impact his legacy.
He was already a former MVP who had just choked away a 3-1 series lead to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
Most people on my Twitter timeline called him weak, a snake, and some other things significantly less flattering than those.
Charles Barkley said he was “disappointed” in Durant’s decision to “gravy train” on an already historic Warriors team.
Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver wrote that:
“He chose an ideal roster fit and a shot at playing for the highest-scoring offense the NBA has seen in decades. He chose life alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the greatest shooting backcourt in history, and he chose to go against Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, two elite defenders, in practices rather than in Western Conference finals games.”
People complained about the integrity of the NBA going forward. No one would be able to compete! Golden State was already a 73-win team.
It wasn’t the same as when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. He, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh came together and built that team from the ground up.
Durant was just joining the bandwagon.
Durant doesn’t care about the chatter about his legacy. In fact, he expected it.
Two championships and two Finals MVP’s later, KD is defying all of that narrative that he intended just to take the easy road to a championship.
Kevin Durant joined @KingJames, @alleniverson and Michael Jordan as the fourth player within a single year to score 200 points in a 5-game span over the last 30 postseasons 🔥 (via @EliasSports) pic.twitter.com/WZoCQxvaMe
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 29, 2019
In the 2017 NBA Finals, Durant was Golden State’s leading scorer in every game that included a 39-point series-clinching performance coming two games after a crucial shot in Game 3 to give Golden State a 3-0 series lead.
This shot effectively buried any hope Cleveland had to win the series and established Durant as a needed piece of the Warriors DNA.
Re-living this moment through some of the different languages of the world seems fitting for just one of the multiple big-time moments he has had in a Warriors uniform.
Durant won another Finals MVP last year after posting averages of 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.5 assists in the Finals and is leading Golden state this year with 34.3 points per game through eight playoff games in 2019.
With each dominating performance, a few things have become clearer.
- Kevin Durant is the best basketball player on the planet.
- The series with the Houston Rockets is over because the Rockets cannot guard Kevin Durant.
- Kevin Durant will determine the NBA’s landscape for the next few seasons with his decision this summer.
This is not to take away from the historic season that James Harden has had or the talents of the Houston Rockets. The simple fact is just that Kevin Durant is the ultimate fail-safe.
Golden State is not even at their full collective strengths. Klay Thompson is battling a bum ankle. So is Steph. Demarcus Cousins is out.
Montrezl Harrell lit them up in the post in their opening round against the Clippers, so surely the Rocket’s Harden/Capela two-man game would chew the Warriors up, right? That was absolutely my take.
Game 3: Saturday (5/4), 8:30pm/et, ABC pic.twitter.com/ysnNXPRgIa
— NBA (@NBA) May 1, 2019
After the first two games, Capela has largely been held in check due to Steve Kerr’s ability to play Durant at the center position defensively.
Despite the weight disadvantage, Durant’s length and speed have allowed the Warriors to defend the spaces that the slower-footed Andrew Bogut couldn’t cover up.
Durant’s impact is needed for Golden State on both ends of the floor. He is the driver of this gravy train and has been since day one.
There are a ton of rumors out and an exponential amount more to come regarding Durant’s free agency destiny.
Our own Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson has implied that he will join the Los Angeles Lakers. When asked, an agent told The Athletic’s Frank Isola that “everyone says Knicks.”
Regardless of where he goes, the complaints about landing spaces and officiating do a poor job of hiding the fact that the Warriors are the dominant force that they are because they have a seven-foot walking mismatch on the wing.
His departure would undeniably make Golden State a significantly weaker team, more reliant on a sometimes-fragile Curry and Thompson who already carries a heavy load on both sides of the floor.
If he stays, Golden State remains the NBA’s cream of the crop and the team to beat. Whatever gym he walked into next would be an instant playoff team regardless of the roster.
If Kevin Durant does leave, he will be to prove that he can have this kind of impact universally without playing on an All-Star saturated team.
The only piece missing from his legacy is to have championship success as the unquestioned alpha.
Even if he leaves it will surely be to join other stars. That’s simply the name of the game in today’s NBA. People will still criticize him, but perhaps there is some personal validation to be had by achieving championship success for a struggling franchise and delivering a final middle finger to the haters.
Kevin Durant is the biggest gravitational pull in the NBA universe this summer.
Love him or hate him, these playoffs is a continuation of an already established fact: Durant is not riding anyone’s coattails. He is the deciding factor on a floor filled with All-Stars and former MVPs.
This is now Kevin Durant’s NBA and we all just live in it. This summer’s decision will set the stage for the league’s immediate future.