Kevin Durant used to do everything right in the NBA. But now, after nine years, that time has come to an end.
He opened up shop in Oklahoma City, a town known more for its cowboy culture than its basketball prowess. He was not only there for the Thunder, but he was there for the city. Durant donated $1 million to tornado victims following a 2011 outbreak in the Southwest. For nine seasons, Durant worked tirelessly to bring a championship to the Sooner State, though that task proved to be difficult.
That squeaky-clean persona was damaged beyond repair yesterday morning when Durant took to The Player’s Tribune and announced he had made the choice millions feared he would make.
Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors will undoubtedly change the scope of his career and have everlasting negative effects on the team he abandoned. If Durant had gone to a team with less talent–say, Boston or New York–he would have been lauded for landing with a squad right on the cusp of success; teams with existing talent, but also with a need to put that last piece into place. If he had decided to stay in Oklahoma City, he would have retained the basketball hopes and dreams of a blue-collar community that lives and dies with its one professional sports team. The family man of O.K.C. would have followed through on a mission that began when the Thunder was nothing but a cellar-dweller chased from dwindling attendance in Seattle.
Instead, Durant took the easy way out. He opted for a team that was already arguably the most formidable unit of our generation. Now he doesn’t have to be the leader. He doesn’t have to pull as much weight. He doesn’t have to work as hard, because Curry, Thompson and Co. can work hard for him.
What a shame. I’ve always considered KD to be one of the top-three players in the world, as I’m sure most experts do as well. This debacle will set him down a peg or two. The talent will still be there; after all, Durant is only 27, and currently in the middle of his prime. It’s not the time to wonder what he has left in the tank just yet, but rather how much higher he can go before reaching that ultimate climax in talent and success.
In other words, Durant is still far from being on the older side. However, with his legacy now down the toilet, he might as well be 39 and hanging around by a flimsy string of one-year, minimum contracts.
Durant may still be one of the best players in the world, but his decision is horrible for the league. Winning 70+ games in a season will no longer merit praise–rather, it will be just a footnote for this Warriors team. And this team should win 70+ games for as long as this team is healthy and fresh. Western Conference contenders like the Clippers or Trail Blazers will be forced to take backward strides after encouraging seasons. Sure, the league will still be somewhat competitive. But this is a step too far.
David Stern vetoed a trade proposal several years ago that would have sent Chris Paul to the L.A. Lakers. I know this isn’t a trade situation, and I might be in the minority here, but it sure would be satisfying if Adam Silver took out his stamp and saved the basketball world the trouble.
The Warriors are great. And Kevin Durant obviously wants to be a part of that greatness. Yet from an ethics standpoint, what he did should not become commonplace in the NBA.
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein/FOX Sports