Kevin Durant‘s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2016 Free Agency and join the Golden State Warriors, a team with the best record in the history of the NBA the previous season and you’re arch-rival, raised more anger, criticism, and hate in the NBA world that any other free agent move in recent history.
Five years later, we can see how dramatically that decision changed the landscape of the NBA, as the effects are still being felt, and Durant is still being disrespected by many fans no matter how much time has passed. KD made a guest appearance on the Million Dollaz Worth of Game podcast and shared the reasoning behind his decision to join the Warriors.
“At 23, my fifth year in the league, we went to the Finals. After that, we didn’t go back again… But that first experience of me going there, it was just like ‘Nah, I need to experience that again, I wanna be on that stage again.‘ That run that we went in 2012, from that first round to the Finals, that was the most fun I had playing basketball. And I was like, ‘I need this experience again. I don’t care who it was with…‘ I just needed to experience that again cause I felt more alive like this is what I should be doing on earth at this point.”Kevin Durant, Million Dollaz Worth of Game
That 2012 Thunder team was something special. The group revolved around its young stars in Durant, Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka, supported by some solid veterans like Perkins, Sefolosha, Fisher, and Collison. The Thunder had an amazing run in the tough Western Conference, as they bounced out the defending champs Mavericks, Kobe, and the Lakers and, to cap it all of the mighty Spurs at the peak of their power. All that led with players in their early 20’s. LeBron and the Heat were too much for the young Thunder in the Finals, but the future looked bright.
Unfortunately, as KD said in the interview, numerous things happened that derailed that team, from the Harden trade to the numerous key injuries that eventually stopped that Thunder team from making the same type of run again. That was at least until 2016 and the infamous blown 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. That team was better than the 2012 team, but it lacked the character and killer mentality to reach the Finals. That is why they couldn’t close the deal and win it all, even though they were by far the best team in the 2016 playoffs. That, and Klay Thompson’s out-of-body experience.
Durant revolved his decision to join the Warriors around, wanting to get to the Finals again and have fun doing it. But the year before, he was one game away from the Finals, playing on a fantastic Thunder team and closer than ever to win it all. Durant choked his three chances to bounce out the Warriors and, in the end, ran away to the other side. I must call bulls–t on that statement, KD.
You will go down as one of the greatest players ever and with good reason, but that move was the weakest move any NBA player has ever made. It was Durant’s choice and good for him, but in my eyes and countless NBA fans, he will never get the respect he would have earned if he did it in Oklahoma City.