A moment of silence for my dreams…
To be honest, that dream looked more and more shaky watching the Thunder take the Western Conference by storm.
When I started writing my little pitch on Durant joining the Celtics I assumed the Thunder would get pummeled by the then immortal Spurs. I was hopeful that the resulting semifinal exit would be enough to steer Durant away from the Thunder and the Western Conference altogether, and it really looked like that would be the case after the blowout win by the Spurs in game 1. I was sure that Durant would be watching the Western Conference Finals—the match-up we all thought would happen—from the sad comfort of his home. That didn’t happen.
When they decisively routed a historically good Spurs team I thought: “okay… well that’s a wrinkle in the plans, but Golden State will take them in five.” That didn’t go quite as expected either. Thunder took Game 1 at Golden State and then willed their way to a 3-1 series lead setting themselves up for another major upset. At this point—regardless of the fact that they ended up choking away that series lead—Durant leaving the Thunder looked like a raisin in the sun. They not only proved that they could contend with Golden State, they proved that they could win the West, and who knows what would have happened had they made the Finals. Maybe Durant would have his first of many rings.
OKC’s future looked promising and its hero looked ready to return alongside Westbrook to give it at least one more year (before the cap boom) to take what they should have had. Then it happened…He left.
HE FREAKING LEFT FOR THE WARRIORS?!?…HOLY F@#$ing SH#!…(Excuse my Stephen A)
His decision was so surreal that my disappointment from the C’s losing out on Durant was overshadowed by the fact that a 73 win Golden State team managed to snag a generational talent STILL IN HIS PRIME! That’s like adding Shaq to the 95-96 Bulls post Orlando’s ECF loss 1, except Jordan was suddenly 4 years younger and Shaq was already in his Laker prime. Imagine what kind of monstrosity that would produce? Would they even lose?
But Shaq didn’t join the Bulls—it probably wasn’t an option anyway. Instead he went on to sign with the Lakers and create a new dynasty and his own legend. And I think that’s what makes Durant’s decision the most disappointing: we’ll never get to see him triumph with his own franchise 2. His story has now been absorbed—both figuratively and literally—by the growing superpower that is the Warriors. No longer is he the small town hero who made his franchise relevant. Now he’s the superstar who’s joined a team that’s already won it all, that already has its franchise player, and has already established itself as one of the greatest in history. Don’t get me wrong, this Golden State super conglomerate is a story in itself and it’s uncharted territory for the NBA, but it’s not the feel good narrative of Durant and Westbrook putting OKC on their back to beat an NBA Goliath. Instead it’s more like: “I can’t believe I’m watching Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant drop 140 on the Thunder.”3
Overall, I don’t blame Durant for wanting to join such a great team given the opportunity, but I wonder this: if Kevin looked back to when he first dreamt about being an NBA Champion, did he envision himself being the man who willed his team all the way, or the player who tagged along?
- Shaq and Orlando were swept by the bulls in the ECF that year, so not quite the same scenario as GSW and OKC but still… ↩
- This might be a bit over dramatic, maybe Durant goes back home after bagging a couple rings a la LeBron ↩
- Fun fact: Almost 10 years ago the Phoenix Suns and then New Jersey Nets combined for 318 total points. Suns won 161-157 making tying it for the 4th highest scoring game in NBA history. Could we potentially see Golden State dropping those kind of numbers? Too bad they have a great defense. ↩