By Dominique Carter
Just a couple days removed from Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and the Golden State Warriors defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 4-1 Finals victory, a lot of people have had mixed feelings about the victory.
While some are congratulating the team for showcasing their dominance and nearly sweeping the NBA playoffs, other people who are complaining about how the Warriors are so dominant and their is a lack of competition around them, and all the blame goes back to one person, Kevin Durant.
Everybody looks back at how KD left the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were a win away from going to the NBA Finals, and facing the team that ultimately beat him and were four points away from winning their second NBA title in as many years. Many people called him weak, a coward, and scared of competition. Basically, his whole character was diminished in one move to one team. I never saw it the same way as so many other people saw it, and here’s why:
1. Durant never had the personality that people wanted him to have. Us as fans look at athletes and the millions of dollars that their paid, and fail to recognize the fact that they are people just like us.
People are quick to compare players to each other, which is fair when we are simply talking about skill, but when we start to get into personalities, then it becomes unfair to target a person for who he/she mentally is or is not. Michael Jordan is the NBA’s barometer for success, and that’s because of the “killer instinct” that he showed. It’s why people like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Russell Westbrook, and other people with those mentalities are compared to him. For those who have watched Durant play over the years, it’s clear that he never wanted to be the “takeover” kind of person, he just wanted to showcase his skill set for the world to see. He would take the final shot if necessary and if he was in control, but never did he really “call his own number” like other people that I’ve mentioned had.
Because he was obviously the most talented player on Oklahoma City, and they play such an ISO heavy game, it was basically required for him to do that due to the fact that everybody who wasn’t Westbrook simply wasn’t as talented. If that isn’t who somebody is we can’t force that out of him simply for our pleasure, no matter how much he’s paid. In the end, he went to a team that was talented enough for him not to have all the pressure that he obviously didn’t want to deal with. He played in such a pass-happy system that it’s usually the person that’s open that takes the clinching shot, aside from his shot over LeBron at the end of Game 3. Some people don’t do well in high pressure situations, and if that’s not him, we can’t blame him for it.
2. Durant didn’t go to a team full of people he didn’t know, he went to a team with friends. If Durant went to the San Antonio Spurs, where he likely wouldn’t know too much about Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol or Tony Parker, it would be different, because he decided to join a random group of people just because they were breaking records.
The thing about Golden State is that Durant was reportedly already friends with at least Draymond Green and Stephen Curry. Over the weekend, Green admitted to calling Durant after the Finals, which means that he had his phone number already, so we can assume that they at least casually kept in touch. He and Curry and Igoudala did admit that they were relatively close with each other after playing some Olympics and All-Star games together and they became friends that way. So if you have friends over at a situation that is looking better than yours, and they have an opportunity to bring you along, wouldn’t you join them? Unless you were specifically trying to avoid working with your friends, I think the answer would be yes for a lot of us.
I think he could have handled the situation with Westbrook better by letting him know ahead of time, if they were as close as we thought they were. The actual move itself didn’t really show disloyalty to Westbrook unless he was promising him that he would stay the whole time. He basically went from one friend group to another in that case.
3. Durant could learn to mentally grow from this situation. He has admitted various times that he was still learning how to be comfortable with himself and become a mentally stronger person, which is why he tried to become more of a savage towards the media when they kept running the campaigns about him being too nice of a person.
Rather than being as weak as everybody claims the move was, I find it very mentally strong to put yourself in a situation where you know that there will be backlash. It teaches you how to deal with negativity. Especially with a supporting cast like Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry, and the rest of the team who seem like some of the most selfless and helpful players in the league, at least that’s what they portray to the media and on the court. Durant also said that he wanted to exit his comfort zone of being in OKC for about eight years and see what a different situation would be like. All in all, as a person, I feel like Durant has probably gained a lot of mental strength and confidence by choosing to go to Golden State, and he even admitted it as the time went on.
4. If all those things are true, that he wanted to go to a more selfless environment because he doesn’t like high pressure situations, he got to be around his friends, and he gained mental toughness in the meantime. Why not go ahead and build a dynasty along with it? If you have a chance to create one of the greatest teams in NBA history, a team that will be remembered, like the Bulls, Lakers, and Celtics, why not involve yourself in that?
At the end of the day, players want success in their own way, and if it feels more rewarding for somebody creating a dynasty that will likely win titles for at least the next three years, rather than winning a title on their own, then I can’t hate on somebody for doing what will satisfy them. He’s the one that has to live his life, not me.
People can keep complaining about the disparity of the league all they want, but the league was already just as sparse in terms of competition as it is now. It was going to be Golden State vs. Cleveland whether Durant joined or not. So, instead of being salty about the guy making a move to try and change his for the better, let’s just enjoy the greatness of a dynasty that we’ll see for the next few years and start realizing that every athlete, musician, actor, or any other celebrity is just another person at the end of the day.