The Golden State Warriors just swept the Cleveland Cavaliers for their second straight championship and third in four years. Kevin Durant, who controversially joined the Warriors in 2016, is now a two-time champion and a two-time Finals MVP. No one can take that away from him.
Now is the perfect time for him to leave the team.
Durant has stated that he is opting out of his current contract with the Warriors to essentially become a free agent. Although he has already gone on record to say that he plans on staying with the Warriors, there is still that slight chance that he may not.
I asked Kevin Durant about his free agent plans this summer, and his answer should make Golden State fans happy: "I'm planning on staying with the Warriors." pic.twitter.com/1w75Xcgl3h
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 8, 2018
The simplest, most direct reason why Durant joined Golden State was to win. It may have been the “easy way out” to join the 73-9 Warriors, but that’s exactly what he has done. However, even he has admitted that winning hasn’t really filled the void that he thought would disappear after joining the Warriors.
Some may say that we should appreciate the Warriors because we should all appreciate greatness. But what makes sports great is when the athletes involved overcome equally great challenges and adversity. Besides the fact that there really is no team capable of stopping the Warriors with Durant when they play at their best, the Warriors can handily beat more than half of the teams in the NBA with their two best players, Steph Curry and Durant, playing at pedestrian levels (to the standards of their abilities, of course).
We have two of the best players of this generation in their primes—one is perhaps the most naturally gifted scorer the league has seen, the other is the greatest shooter in history—and somehow it is now hard to appreciate what they are doing because they do not need to perform at their best 90 percent of the time. I am not exactly sure if that is what we qualify as greatness.
Most sports fans fall in love with the game because of an idol, and we all want to see our idols reach their ceilings and subsequently thrive because of it. If you’re a fan of Kevin Durant or Steph Curry (or even some of the other Warriors players like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green), how satisfied do you feel seeing them succeed without really needing the magic in their games that made you adore them in the first place?
Especially since you know they still have that ability in them. As a general fan of the NBA, its frustrating. Here are two players who are already arguably in the top 20 players of all-time, with the potential to go even high the list, yet we cannot even enjoy their respective journeys.
If Kevin Durant stays in Golden State, we will have to endure years of this dissonance again. Warriors fans love Steph, Klay, and Draymond. They appreciate Durant, sure, but he will never be revered like those three players, even if he may even be the best among them. The rest of the NBA fans either despise him or are indifferent towards him, which is sad to think considering how beloved he was as the second best player and supposed heir apparent to LeBron James as recently as three years ago.
And after a dominant run in their first season together, this year we saw a more disconnected, sometimes uninspired Warriors team that struggled at multiple points of the regular season and playoffs to find their groove. This was the complete opposite of the free-flowing, selfless, and electric style of basketball the Warriors of the past several seasons have been known for. And many pinned the blame on Durant and his increased tendency to revert to his isolation-heavy style of play.
He supposedly joined the Warriors to seamlessly fit in their winning formula, the team wasn’t supposed to compromise what made them successful just to accommodate an individual. When the Warriors win, it’s unexciting and predictable. When they lose, it’s KD’s fault.
Kevin Durant is still in his prime, but he is turning 30 years old later this year. This offseason might be his last opportunity for a max money, long-term contract. He’s already accomplished what he wanted to do, so he can choose to go to a different team without the pressure of having to prove himself anymore.
But he has all the right to choose to remain with the Warriors, so we must respect that. What Kevin Durant must understand is that with the Warriors, no matter how much he wins, somehow, it still feels like he loses.