It was only a year ago when Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder held a 3 games to 1 lead in the Western Conference Finals over the mighty Golden State Warriors. We know how that story ends, though. Durant and the Thunder lost the next three surrendering second-half leads in the sixth and seventh games.
The Warriors moved only to surrender a 3–1 lead of their own to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals. The excuses for the choke job were aplenty. Stephen Curry was playing on a bum ankle. Draymond Green is a mad man, so he naturally took a shot at LeBron’s manhood and earned himself a costly suspension. The record-setting Warriors came up short when it mattered the most.
Last summer, Durant took the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” route and joined the Warriors through free agency. The move did not earn him popularity points. Durant didn’t seem to care. He wanted to win and joining forces with Steph, Klay, and Draymond was a good way to do that.
In an era when professional athletes are subjected to constant criticism, Durant was on the receiving end of plenty of it. Talking heads argued that he was admitting he could not win a title “on his own.” (Like anyone has ever done that before). They argued that any titles Durant won with the Warriors wouldn’t be as valuable as a title somewhere else.
Those arguments are, of course, absurd and Durant’s performance in the Finals’ first two games have made them even more so. Sure, he joined a great team. But let there be no doubt, Kevin Durant is driving the Warriors’ bus.
Durant is scoring from everywhere while exerting himself defensively (he had 5 blocks and 3 steals in Game 2). He’s simultaneously playing aggressively while being unselfish (14 assists so far in the series). The seven-footer is crashing the boards (averaging 11 rebounds per game). Durant wants to win. He wants to win badly. It’s written all over his face. He is going to do (and is doing) whatever it takes to earn his first ring.
The world’s great athletes do not lack confidence. Kevin Durant is no different. His decision to join Golden State proves it. He knew he had the talent and wherewithal to handle the pressure that would come with a superstar joining a super team. He believed the Warriors roster would elevate his game while he elevated their games in return. He was right. He is in the midst of defining himself was an all-time great. He is leading a team that has elevated the sport of basketball to a level that is near perfection.
See, Kevin Durant didn’t take the easy way out when he joined Golden State. He was betting on himself. He was betting he would win a championship immediately. Now, he’s just a couple games away from cashing in on that bet.