Kevin Durant — The NBA’s most diabolical villain

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Poor Kevin.

No really, I feel for the guy. I couldn’t imagine all the stress of having to decide which championship caliber team to join while sipping on a Mai-Tai in the Hamptons and about to get paid 27 million dollars. Business is no longer done in an office — it’s done on a beach.

Poor Kevin.

On the 4th of July, former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant agreed to a two year, $54.3 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. He announced his anticipated decision via The Players’ Tribune in an article titled “My Next Chapter.”

Durant starts the article off by saying, “This has been by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional life.”

…Once again, poor Kevin.

There are a lot of bad people in professional sports. It seems like every time you turn on the news there’s another player being investigated for a sexual assault, domestic abuse, or an inexplicable violent act. However, there are many heroes and idols that deservedly receive the attention and admiration from fans everywhere. In his article, Durant writes, “It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice.” I truly believe Durant is telling the truth. Kevin Durant is one of the most honest, well-mannered, and cordial athletes across professional sports.

And yet, overnight, he has become the NBA’s greatest villain. I’m not talking about Biff from “Back to the Future” or Johnny Lawrence from “The Karate Kid.” No. I’m talking full on Heath Ledger’s Joker status — some men just want to watch the world burn.

Last week I wrote about how the “max contract” is ruining the NBA. The article discussed the problems of having a max contract — like limiting superstars from making closer to what they are truly worth (KD is worth A LOT more than $27 million a year). It also talked about “The Shift” in the NBA which now makes fans want to watch superstar teams instead of individual superstar players. Right on cue, Durant has exposed the NBA’s biggest flaw.

So why did Durant chose Golden State? The answer makes sense: winning. Let’s be honest, in American sports culture (and maybe more so in basketball than any other sport) it’s the amount of championships that really defines your legacy. Michael Jordan will always be viewed as better than LeBron James because MJ has more rings than The King (and I predict it will stay that way). Is that fair? Sure, I think so. Because when two players are being compared and both players are statistically identical, what should be the deciding factor? It’s simple: Winning.

Durant jumps (apparently sinking) ship in OKC and heads to the Golden State Warriors to play with the team who just set the NBA record for regular season wins. Lead by unanimous MVP Steph Curry and All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors are thundering (too soon?) favorites to win the championship. I respect wanting to win (you play to win the game)…so why do I hate KD’s choice?

Legacy.

Let’s play a game. I’ll name a franchise, and you tell me the greatest player to ever play for that franchise.

Chicago Bulls.
New England Patriots.
Cleveland Cavaliers.

Easy enough right? (Jordan, Brady, James).

Now here’s a tricky one…

Oklahoma City Thunder.

Since moving to Oklahoma City in 2008, Kevin Durant is undoubtedly the face of the franchise.

In professional sports, the only thing more admired than winning is a player’s legacy.

Durant had his choice of legacies to build. He could have stayed in OKC (who traded for better players and held a second meeting in hopes of convincing the 27 year old to stay) or ventured to historic Boston in hopes of becoming the next Celtics legend. Either destination would have suited Durant just fine and created a realistic shot at a title. While there wasn’t a right choice between Oklahoma City or Boston, Golden State was definitely the wrong choice.

With Golden State, Kevin Durant’s legacy will forever be tarnished. Every great has always been the best player on their respected teams. Is KD even the best Warrior? After KD wins not one…not two…not three…not four… championships, there will be an asterix next to his legacy: *team didn’t build around him.

LeBron James did the same thing when he went to Miami. Yes, while the intentions were the same, the actual repercussions and physical talents around the fleeing players are incomparable — apples and orangutans. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were never unanimous MVPs. They never broke any all-time win records. LeBron’s Miami team would get absolutely pummeled by Durant’s Warriors.

I do subtly blame LeBron for KD’s decision — LeBron shifted the NBA into a league that allows superstar teams. But this has gone too far. The league is no longer competitive. With 4 of the NBA’s Top-25 players stockpiled on one team, the rest of the league can only quiver in fear.

So just how good can the Warriors be? They’re not going to go 82–0, but they will probably win at least 70 games. While depth and chemistry will take its toll on the Warriors, the 2016–17 Golden State Warriors will be one of (if not the) best teams ever constructed in all of professional sports. I have never taken a Latin class in my life, but I’m pretty sure “Golden State Warriors” translates to “National Basketball Association” in Latin.

Basketball fans everywhere will watch as many Warriors games as they can. The entire country will be fascinated to see what this team can do. “Dub Nation” will expect 120+ points every night and for their beloved Warriors to deliver another championship. EVERYONE will expect the Warriors to win it all. With all of these expectations and additional pressures, will the Warriors actually follow through?

For Kevin Durant’s well-being and legacy*, he better hope so.