"Weakest Move By A Superstar Ever": Durant's Legacy After A Crazy Offseason
During the 2016 off season, superstar forward Kevin Durant spurned his former Oklahoma City Thunder team to join the record-breaking, 73-9, Golden State Warriors over the summer. However, there are factors surrounding this situation that separate it from the rest. I don’t often agree with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, when it comes to certain things outside of sports, however, when it comes to Kevin Durant, he is completely right.
Durant is one of the greatest scorers of all-time. He's 6'11, dribbles like a point guard, runs and jumps like a gazelle, and effectively scores in a variety of ways. As such, he's easily one of the best players in the world. In the 2016 playoffs, he put his team up 3-1 against Golden State with only one more win needed to send his team to the finals. They lost game 5, and in game 6; he had a poor performance, especially in the 4th quarter where he went 1-7 from the field and also turned the ball over twice. His team was leading by seven points with only five minutes left, but he fell flat in the most pivotal moments as his team missed out on their best opportunity to return to the finals. In the subsequent game 7, they lost again. Series over.
Given how the situation turned out, most players (especially superstars) would return with a focus that demanded them to defeat the team that previously defeated them. However, Durant went in the opposite direction. Only a few months after the loss, he joined the very team that came back from 3-1 to beat him.
Now, it's not like there haven't been great players who joined other great teams before. Even Hall of Fame shooting guard Clyde Drexler requested to be traded to a title-caliber team (Houston). However, in the case of Drexler, he wasn’t on a team good enough to win in the first place. Yet, that isn’t the case for Durant: he possessed an unprecedented, athletic monster for a teammate who, in the mind of some, is considered an even greater player than Durant. And if you’ve been paying attention this season, Westbrook is averaging a triple double. He also had Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, Dion Waiters, and Serge Ibaka there to aid him as well. Some may argue that their play was lackluster, but they ultimately filled in well as the main members of the Thunder’s supporting cast in capturing what was a 3-1 lead over the Warriors.
The supporting cast, as a whole, put Durant in a position where he could be successful. Two men alone (Durant and Westbrook) can’t defeat a 73-9 team, let alone dominate them like they did in games 3 and 4. So if you throw in the fact that one of the main reasons they lost was due to his lack of good play, things merely look worse and worse for Durant’s legacy.
As mentioned earlier, the Warriors are a record-breaking team. They finished last season at 73-9, one game above the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan who finished 72-10. They are no strangers to success as they reached the finals this past season for the second time in a row, even propelling themselves to a 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers, though they ultimately fell short. If Durant didn't join them, they still would've been widely seen as the favorite to win the title this year.
After all, even if Love and Irving were injured, the Warriors still won the title in 2015, and already possessed one of the youngest star-studded cores before Durant's arrival. Stephen Curry is only 28 years old, followed by Klay Thompson and Draymond Green who are both only 26 years old. When you add in Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, and Festus Ezeli, anyone would be hard-pressed to tell me they weren’t already set up to win multiple titles without him. Yes, I know Golden State gave up most of those guys in Speights, Bogut, Barnes, Ezeli, and Barbosa to get him, but the overall collection of what they attained over the summer in Durant along with veteran additions Zaza Pachulia and David West is undoubtedly better than what they lost. That’s why Golden State didn’t hesitate to make the move.
So essentially, a 73-9 team just improved. Given that notion, what credit is it to his skill if he wins with a team that's proven it doesn’t need him in order to do so?
Durant’s move to Golden State has set him up to potentially win several championships, yet, even if this happens, how will those championships be viewed in the future, 10 years from now? For a player that wants to establish himself as one of the all-time best, and in credit to his talent, could truly be, this turn of events certainly places a large asterisk next to his name. In the hunt for the chip and the bolstering of his own personal legacy, Durant’s move may have brandished a double edged sword in regards to both.