7.4.2016 — San Luis Obispo, CA

It’s the 4th of July and I’m at a beach house and a group of 30-somethings open the door with 30 racks in hand.

“Happy KD day!” one of them yells to greet the party. People turn their heads and think about what he just said. Happy KD day. Holy shit. It wasn’t just a dream.

Earlier that morning, while people around the country were putting on their red,white, ‘n’ blue tank tops, fanny packs, and face paint, Kevin Durant, the 6th most recognizable athlete in the world, announced he’d be leaving Oklahoma City and to play for the Golden State Warriors.

The deal was crazy for a number of reasons:

  1. He’s going to the fucking Warriors?! The Warriors who just won 73 regular season games. Who are altogether changing the game of basketball. Who have Curry and Klay and Draymond and the deepest supporting cast in the league. Who were a couple of Splash Brother 3’s away from back-to-back championships. And who just tore the hearts out of the Thunder after stealing the Western Conference Championship. Shouldn’t KD despise the Warriors? Shouldn’t that have been the team he was gunning for next season? And now that he made the decision, bigger questions remain. Where will he ever fit in? How will there ever be enough room on that team for KD to be KD?
  2. Kevin Durant and the Thunder had, arguably, their best season ever. They won 55 regular season games and at one point were up 3–1 against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. With a healthy KD and Westbrook, a rising star in Adams, and a good return off the recent Ibaka deal, the Thunder could very well have found themselves in the Western Conference Finals again next year. Probably against the Warriors. But this time with more high-pressure, playoff experience and a huge chip on their shoulders. KD was so close to doing it in OKC. But now, we’ll never know if that team was capable of closing the deal.
  3. In a post-LeBron-leaving-Cleveland-to-win-a-couple-championships-in-Miami-and-getting-hated-on-hard-and-then-returning-to-Cleveland-where-he-won-a-championship-for-the-city-and-now-everyone-loves-him-again-era, Kevin Durant made the decision to leave Oklahoma City in an attempt to win a couple championships with Golden State. He saw the the flack LeBron faced when he left Cleveland and heard the shit being talked when he won in Miami. And still, KD made the decision to leave. He just wanted to fucking win. And he put himself in the best position to do so — joining the best regular season team the league has ever seen.

I immediately hate the decision. I think he should have stayed and proved he could have won on his own, with the team that drafted him. Jordan did it. Kobe did it. And after last season, LeBron joined the group. Winning with the team that drafts you is the true sign of greatness.

But is that fair?

Imagine if your professional career worked like the NBA and out of college you got drafted to a startup. You had no control over the company you joined — who you were working with, who you were working for, and where the company was located. You could be drafted to a tractor-parts startup in the middle of Oklahoma and be expected to turn that company into the next John Deere. But maybe after 8 years of blood, sweat, and tears, you realize the company isn’t going to be the success everyone had hoped. You’re tired of tractors and Oklahoma and you start looking elsewhere. You want to work for a company that’s changing the world. That’s constantly pushing the boundaries for what’s possible. You want a place that has great management, a dynamic culture, and you want to work alongside some of the smartest, most interesting people in the world.

So you move to San Francisco and join Google. It’s a proven winner. Can anyone blame you for that?

Actually, yeah. Some might call that a weak move.

It’s crazy the pressure we’ve put on ourselves here in America. In tech, the greats have to come up with an idea, found a company, and see it through to an acquisition or IPO. In sports, the greats must stick with the same team who drafted them, build that team up, and ultimately, win a championship. There’s only one path and it must be followed.

The truth is — there are so many different definitions of greatness and ways to get there. So instead of hating on KD and his decision, I hope that he finds success in Golden State and that part of his legacy is showing us a different path towards greatness.

So happ KD day. Here’s to defining your own measures of success and going with your gut.

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