On Monday morning, Durant announced he will be playing for the Golden State Warriors next season via the Players Tribune. He agreed to a two-year, $54 million contract with a player-option after the first year.
Durant led the Oklahoma City Thunder to within a game of the NBA Finals before ultimately falling to the Warriors this season. Now, he decides to join a 73-win team that knocked him out of the playoffs before going on to lose in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Six years ago, LeBron James decided to leave the Cavaliers and take his talents to South Beach and join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. James was blasted from any and everyone who had an opinion both a loud and courtesy of social media.
The ultimate goal of competing in the NBA is winning a championship, or at least it should be. The overall greatness of superstar players is judged –sometimes unfairly – by championships. The legacy of a superstar player isn’t always defined by a championship. Look at guys like Charles Barkley, John Stockton and Karl Malone. All three were phenomenal, superstar talent that never won a ring. Do people question their overall greatness and contributions to the game of basketball? Sure don’t. They didn’t win rings, but were still great and all three are arguably amongst the Top-20 players of all time. If Kevin Durant retired today, he would still be considered one of the all-time greats with or without a championship.
Durant shouldn’t be blamed for wanting to win a title and putting himself in position to do just that. Again, the ultimate goal when players make the jump to the NBA level is to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The goal is not to have the most Twitter followers or be considered a “nice guy.” The goal is to compete with a group of guys with the same goal in mind; winning championships.
One huge reason scrutiny and criticism occur when things like this occur is “we the people.”
Everyone has an opinion. Everybody is an armchair general manager that knows all. In order to win in today’s NBA, superstars must form super teams because one superstar just simply isn’t enough to win championships. With all the money being thrown around, it is hard for NBA teams to retain players who seek not only championship aspirations, but also the lure of the almighty dollar.
Think of it this way. If you are working at job A, where everything fitted your needs of living the life that you want, but then job B offers you and even better offer, wouldn’t you jump on that opportunity?
Money is one thing for Durant, but not the most important, as he already has millions of dollars. He is increasing his chances of finally capturing an NBA championship, so how can he be faulted or vilified for making a better decision for him? After all, it is his life that he can choose how he wants things to go, not somebody sitting behind a keyboard. The decisions he makes are based on what makes his life better.
Paul Pierce was once critical when James, Wade and Bosh formed a super team.
Let that sink in for a second.
Pierce was a member of the Celtics when they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. All three were superstars in the NBA and went on to win a championship. The “big three” was the catalyst of all these players wanting to join forces to compete for the richest prize in the game. That was the blueprint for all of this that has followed. We so often forget about while bashing a player’s decision, especially when they’ve earned the right as a “free agent.”
Durant leaving shows that his desire to win an NBA championship is above his ego and the court of public opinion, even if that means joining three other elite NBA players. At the end of the day, he wants to win and feels this is his best shot of doing so. Robert Horry is a seven-time NBA champion, but he doesn’t get recognized as one of the best to ever play the game. Rings aren’t the end all, be all to determine a player’s greatness. So who really cares how a player wins a championship?
Some people seemed to validate LeBron James’ career and/or legacy after winning a championship in Cleveland this year, but did that take away from the overall greatness he displayed before that? Absolutely not. He is still a Top-10 player of all time, no matter how you look at it.
A key in the move to the Warriors is that Jerry West spoke to Durant about what it’s like to be eaten away by not winning championships. West went 1-8 in NBA Finals and said it still eats him up to this day. What West was able to pull off yet again is a completely other story, but should not be overlooked in the decision Durant made. Back in 1996, West was able to lure Shaquille O’Neal from Orlando to the Los Angeles Lakers. This was coming off a Finals appearance for Shaq and the Magic. Jerry west is heralded as one of the greatest basketball minds that is able to attract superstar players as seen in the Durant and Shaq deals.
The urgency to win a first championship increases each year a player comes up short of the ultimate goal. However, Durant would have had talent had he decided to stay with the Thunder, arguably even better talent than this past season. He had a well-rounded coaching staff, led by Billy Donovan who proved he can coach at the NBA level. The front office is top-notch and one of the best in the league today. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win a championship, but to join a 73-win team littered with other superstar players, that could be hard to digest for some.
After James announced his decision to join the Heat, Durant tweeted out “Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!” Six years later, it’s fair to say that he is contradicting himself in regards to that tweet.
Kevin Durant won’t receive that same type of backlash and scrutiny that followed James upon his decision to join Miami, but he’ll get more than his fair share of it. Whether it’s as bad or not as bad as “The Decision” and LeBron’s move to Miami? That’s for you to decide and it doesn’t mean much on the grand scale of things.
Kevin Durant made the ultimate decision to better his chances of achieving the ultimate goal; winning a championship. That is what it comes down to at the end of the day.