Kevin Durant is now a Golden State Warrior. The dude is joining the team that he very nearly toppled in the last Playoffs. He should have been mad at these guys. He should have been back in Dragon Ball's Hyperbolic Time Chamber training like Vegeta after Goku yet again proved he's the man. Durant has always been Vegeta—strong but not the strongest.
Instead, Durant has cozied up to the Warriors. He's joining—in this story arc at least—the bad guys. There's a cursive Majin Boo "M" currently being emblazoned on Durant's forehead as he completes the heel-turn. The emotional response ran the gamut of anger, hatred, mockery, derision, and a feeling that this was a cop-out by KD—that jumping on the rival ship was not how a hero, a super-athlete is supposed to deal with things like defeat.
The Thunder came one game short of booking a trip to the Finals in 2016
Durant can come up with the most well-thought out goodbye essay but there's just no easy way to sell the move. Fresh off the last Playoffs defeat, the perception on Durant is that he's a deserter, a top CIA agent defecting to the USSR way back when spies routinely did that. We hate the move. Sports are built on rivalries. The NBA's salvation in the '80s came in the form of Bird versus Magic, still an unmatched rivalry to this day. Durant's transfer robbed us of one—a drama-filled honest-to-goodness rivalry. We were drooling at Warriors-Thunder II until this guy flipped the script. So: Hate all you want. It's completely understandable.
If Durant has an out, however, it's this: He's not the first high-profile superstar/once-in-a-generation talent/MVP to transfer to a team for a better chance at winning a championship during his prime. That title belongs to LeBron James. He couldn't win in Cleveland during his first stint with the team, and bolted to form a superteam in Miami. He won two championships there. The move also wasn't well-received, inciting people to burn James' Cavs jerseys out of sheer hatred. Some Oklahomans are doing the same as we speak.
The point is, LeBron set the precedent for this kind of move. This isn't Karl Malone or Charles Barkley piggybacking on a team with a set of proven talents. When they moved, they were past their prime.
Now, thanks to LeBron's example, players now believe it's okay to move even when they're at a stage when they can still provide piggybacking services to aging stars. They're still at their prime, and yet they move. We can thank LeBron for opening the gates for that kind of move. LeBron has a legacy—looking out for yourself by bolting to a better team is one of them. You can say that Kevin Durant merely followed suit. If you're being harsh, you can even say that LeBron is partly to blame for Kevin Durant being able to make this decision. After all, he saw LeBron being rewarded with a championship by bolting and settling for a shorter, more flexible contract. In fact, he saw LeBron's first one firsthand, being the losers in their 2011 championship series against the Heat.
Durant also knows what it feels like to lose against LeBron in the Finals
If Durant wins the championship in June 2017, he'll see what LeBron experienced: winning it all washes away all this dirt. When he does, maybe he can pull another LeBron signature move: the Learn-How-To-Win-And-Then-Win-One-For-Your-Original-Team gambit. Do that, and all the animosity on display today will disappear. There's only one kink: that's years ahead in the future. What's working out for Durant though is he's only 27 now. He'll have plenty of time to make a face-turn.
And at least he didn't do this.
Are we truly blaming LeBron for this? It's a tongue-in-cheek claim. But that just goes to show you the amount of sway that LeBron has. He's still the center of the current NBA universe. Look: We're talking about him in an article that should be about a player almost as talented as him. And with him winning the championship last June, he only reinforced that.
Durant saw how a force like LeBron demolished a record-breaking team. At some point, he knew that Oklahoma as it had been currently constructed will not be able to beat a team like that. After another year, Kyrie Irving will continue to mature, Kevin Love will continue to assimilate himself better with his ball-dominant superstar teammates, and LeBron will be LeBron. Oklahoma will roughly be the same—the cloud of doubt as to whether this team will ever win a championship growing bigger. Durant and his teammates knew their team had peaked (and failed), psychologically at least. And off Ibaka went. That was a sign that Durant wasn't going to stay for long. Change was coming.
And this change was inspired by the power demonstrated by the Cleveland Cavaliers and their No. 23. Durant, not a stranger to injuries, knows his mortality all too well and doesn't want to go the way of Malone and Barkley. He wants to win now. Golden State isn't the enemy; they're the golden ticket to beating the ultimate enemy: LeBron James. Thanks to the growth of the NBA market, a stacked team like the Warriors was suddenly able to offer him enough money—but most importantly, a legitimate winning chance.
Power attracts power. Kevin Durant—and Steph Curry—saw LeBron James' wrecking ball performance in the Finals. Deep inside, they knew that teaming up will be the quickest—if not the only—way to topple the giant. The result: Durant in the blue-and-gold.
Thanks, or no thanks, LeBron.
Image via Sprksports.com