Kevin Durant‘s time with the Warriors was both extraordinary and extraordinarily short.
In his three years there, Golden State won two championships and made another NBA Finals. Durant made an All-NBA first team and two All-NBA second teams. Usually, when a player and team reach anywhere near that level of shared success, they stick together.
But Durant, who signed with the Nets, left the Warriors this summer.
“I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted,” he says. “But I’ll never be one of those guys. I didn’t get drafted there.… Steph Curry, obviously drafted there. Andre Iguodala, won the first Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Green, drafted there. And the rest of the guys kind of rehabilitated their careers there. So me? Shit, how you going to rehabilitate me? What you going to teach me? How can you alter anything in my basketball life? I got an MVP already. I got scoring titles.”
“As time went on,” he says, “I started to realize I’m just different from the rest of the guys. It’s not a bad thing. Just my circumstances and how I came up in the league. And on top of that, the media always looked at it like KD and the Warriors. So it’s like nobody could get a full acceptance of me there.”
His tenure in the Bay Area was great, he says, but because of media speculation, fan anxiety, “it didn’t feel as great as it could have been.”
This is a sound assessment. It’s a toned-down version of the report he felt disrespected with the Warriors, but it still hits similar notes.
Durant was never going to be as beloved as his teammates who lifted the franchise from the cellar to a championship before he arrived. He just didn’t have that type of equity with the fan base.
It didn’t help that so many assumed Golden State would’ve won the 2017 and 2018 titles even without Durant. Nearly all champions are appreciated. But to many, Durant felt superfluous.
Another complication: Durant preferred a different offensive system to the one other Warriors, including coach Steve Kerr, favored. That led to analysis that naturally separated Durant from the rest of the team, which trickled into feelings of greater divide.
If Durant wanted to have a comfortable fit, he could’ve re-signed with the Thunder. He was royalty in Oklahoma City. It sounds like he doesn’t regret leaving, though.
He also could’ve been instantly beloved by signing with his hometown Wizards. He didn’t sound interested in that, either.
Maybe it’ll be different in Brooklyn. Unlike the Warriors, the Nets were only just beginning to establish their identity when he arrived.
But he still comes with baggage – the notoriety of ring chasing with the team that eliminated him the prior season, having already established his greatness elsewhere, a torn Achilles that could keep his play from meeting expectations. At minimum, Durant will never be the homegrown star in Brooklyn. At worst, he’ll never be a star at all in Brooklyn.
Most likely, he’ll find a middle ground. Will he be happy in it? I’m not sure. It at least sounds like he has learned how to handle those circumstances.