Kevin Durant has cemented his legacy as one of the elite players of his generation with back-to-back NBA Finals MVP awards with the Warriors, but his controversial decision to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State in the summer of 2016 will forever taint his accomplishments in the minds of some fans.
On May 24th, 2016, Durant and Westbrook combined for 62 points to win Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals and go up 3-1 on the Warriors in the series. Golden State would go on to win three consecutive games to reach the Finals – and just a few weeks later, Durant announced the “next chapter” of his career in a now-infamous Players’ Tribune article.
In an interview with The Athletic, Durant said that he knew when he decided to join the Warriors that he was going to be criticized heavily, but compared his move to LeBron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat.
Via The Athletic:
“I came here knowing for a fact, that every media member, every fan was going to call me every name in the book for however long I was here and I was going to take the brunt of everything. I knew coming here. But I wanted to be a part of this so bad, I didn’t give a . Same with LeBron . He took all of that heat, no matter what.”
Durant and James each landed on superteams, but it’s hard to compare Durant joining a team that won a record 73 games the season before to James leaving to build something new with a team that had finished third in its division and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The heat LeBron received from fans – which mostly stemmed from The Decision and his “not one, not two” speech – was entirely different then the criticism Durant endured. Most fans weren’t yelling about the competitive integrity of the league on Twitter when LeBron landed in Miami. Durant, meanwhile, joined the best team in basketball and has since won two consecutive titles, and is favored to add a third this summer.
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