Kevin Durant broke the NBA when he joined the Golden State Warriors 3 years ago. It was a shocking move where the NBA’s second best player joined the former champions and current regular season record holders in Oakland. Sure, the Warriors had just lost in the finals and finished second behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and the best player in the NBA, LeBron James, but it was by the slimmest of margins.
That slim margin was enough for “The Slim Reaper” however, who has later said that “I damn sure wasn’t going there if they’d won”. Joining the Warriors, Kevin Durant did and winning championships they sure have been doing too. They are now closing in on a fourth NBA title in five years. That’s what happens when a historic team adds a historic talent. It’s just too much talent to overcome for the other 29 teams. It’s not rocket science.
But Kevin Durant still isn’t happy, at least the last time we heard from him. It might not be his worst nightmare, but the thought of the Golden State Warriors winning without him was enough for him to take to social media to defend himself again, this time on his regular Twitter account.
I see a little exaggeration there buddy, my worst nightmare?? U sure that this is the worst that it can get???
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) May 20, 2019
Winning an NBA championship feels good. It is supposed to validate you as a player and fill a void that will always be there if you don’t win it. It is four time champion Shaquille O’Neal’s trump card every time he gets into a heated argument with Charles Barkley, who infamously has zero championship rings. Rings Erneh!
But it still didn’t fill a void for Kevin Durant like he thought it would.
In Kevin Durant’s head, winning the NBA Championship and finally toppling LeBron in the finals would be enough for everyone to recognize him as the best player in the game. As Ethan Strauss reported back in February, Kevin Durant thought he’d be seen as better than LeBron after the 2017 Finals.
Durant didn’t simply want to win a championship, he wanted to be considered better than LeBron James, as the best player in the league. That fact was even more evident in the immediate moments after Durant gained his first NBA title. What was the first reaction from Kevin Durant? Who did he seek out before his mom, before his teammates, before everyone else…? LeBron James.
What did KD tell LeBron?
‘We tied up now,’ and we gonna try to do this thing again,”
Beating LeBron and not being second place has always been Durant’s primary motive. He thought winning a championship and beating LeBron would be the vehicle to bring him the “best player in the league” championship belt that LeBron has had this whole decade, but it didn’t. Not when he beat him the first time and not even when he swept him the second time. Kevin Durant was still 2nd place, something he has always tried to escape.
Kevin Durant on the cover of this week's @SInow: "I’m tired of being second…. I’m done with it.” pic.twitter.com/5CWXO92udJ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 23, 2013
The narrative around Kevin Durant stayed fairly consistent throughout the year, with rumors of Durant looking to finally take matters into his own hands, leave the Golden State Warriors and win as the main guy with the New York Knicks. Winning outside of the Warriors dynasty has always looked like the way Durant could shut up his haters, end the criticism and remove the asterisks from his championships in Golden State.
The narrative around the league has still been that the Warriors could have won without him. A narrative Durant has wanted to avoid. Remember: “I damn sure wasn’t going there if they’d won”.
Narratives change fast in the NBA. With LeBron not making the playoffs and Durant playing well, while the rest of the Warriors struggled, it looked like the narrative was finally shifting in KDs favor. More and more talking heads mentioned Durant as the league’s best player.
Then, when Durant got injured and the Warriors went on to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers after finishing off the Houston Rockets without him, the narrative started to change again. 32-1 without Durant, Steph Curry looked more like his unanimous MVP self again, Draymond Green was like a new man and Klay Thompson was… Klay.
“Are the Warriors better without Durant” was a narrative that crept up on all the take shows featuring a white guy, a black guy and a woman presenter, but no one actually ran with it. No one truly believed that to be the case, even if it seemed like the Warriors got some newfound motivation in a season where a championship seemed inevitable once they got past the Houston Rockets.
Right as this narrative was starting to get some pushback, the Warriors lost Game 1 in Toronto and the narrative truly flipped once again. Now all of a sudden, the Warriors need KD to beat Toronto. Even with the Warriors fighting back and winning Game 2, this narrative has persisted. No team has ever gotten as much credit for losing their home court advantage as the Toronto Raptors have. It might be a sign of how desperate people are to see a beatable Warriors team.
Let’s be clear: The Warriors are not better without Durant, but they sure as hell don’t need him to win either. However, the Warriors without Kevin Durant are beatable. That’s why almost everyone outside of Golden State and Colin Cowherd for some reason, wants him to leave this summer. The only team that needs Durant on or off the court to win this season are the Toronto Raptors.
But they won’t.
By all accounts, Kevin Durant is coming back to play in this series, most likely by Game 4 or 5. That will probably be it for the Toronto Raptors unless they can get a 3-1 lead by Game 5, Klay Thompson is out and/or the Warriors struggle to adjust back to playing with KD in time. None of those things seem all that likely to happen.
But what happens before Durant returns, will affect the narrative and subsequently Durant’s decision this summer. If the Warriors are up 3-1 by the time he returns, the asterisks will remain and Durant will seek to find validation by winning somewhere else. If the Raptors somehow get a 3-1 lead and lose it with Durant back in the fold, the narrative will be that Golden State always needed him to win.
If that ever becomes the narrative and media-personalities and NBA Twitter alike buy into it, Durant would have no reason to leave. He wouldn’t have to prove his worth by winning on his own, as people would think he already did. Instead, his next objective would be to accumulate as many championships as possible, in an attempt to climb even further on the Greatest of All Time ladder. The place he’d be the most likely to win several titles would be in Golden State and we would have to endure this dynasty for a little bit longer.
God help us all if that happens…