A Shot at Redemption ft. Kevin Durant

 

 
 
NBA

A Shot at Redemption ft. Kevin Durant

Gone are the days when nice guy Kevin Durant was a fan favorite on a promising Thunder team. After a move to the Golden State Warriors, Durant remains as one of the most controversial figures in the NBA. In the words of The Dark Knight’s Harvey Dent, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” But with his impending free agency, Kevin Durant has a shot at redemption.

 
By Javier Faustino | June 29, 2019

Ringer Illustration


Golden Boy

The basketball world knew Kevin Durant was special ever since he averaged 25 ppg and 11 rpg in his freshman year at the University of Texas. After being selected 2nd overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics, Durant immediately showcased his talent, scoring 20 ppg as a rookie. Despite losing to the Heat in 5 games, Durant put up 30 ppg on basketball’s biggest stage in the Thunder’s 2012 finals appearance. KD would later on become the MVP in 2014 and cement himself as one of the NBA’s golden boys after his famous “You the Real MVP” speech:

There were the obvious parts of Kevin Durant’s game that made it so easy to root for him: the infinite shooting range, the ability to score in the paint at will, the skill to handle the basketball under pressure, and the versatility to defend multiple positions. He’s a matchup nightmare that’s too tall for wings and too fast for bigs. But what made Durant truly admirable was his dedication to basketball and only basketball. We rarely ever saw him fight anyone, get involved in off-court drama, or make ill-advised statements to the media. Much like Kawhi Leonard’s approach, Durant had a calm demeanor and let his game do the talking for him. KD pretty much lived the mantra that every professional basketball player should follow: Eat. Sleep. Ball. Repeat. That is with exception to these tweets, of course:

With his undeniable greatness on the court and stellar reputation off the court, it was hard to imagine that Durant would wind up as anything but the people’s champ. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Weakest Move in NBA History

After going up 3-1 against the 73-win Golden State Warriors in 2016, the Thunder ended up losing the series in 7 games. This collapse was followed by the Warriors choking a 3-1 lead in the finals to LeBron’s Cavaliers. After playing 8 seasons in OKC, Kevin Durant did the unthinkable by signing for the Warriors in free agency. Durant’s decision to sign with the Warriors is considered the weakest move in NBA history according to fans and analysts alike. Granted, Durant had every right to put himself in the best situation with his career and family in mind, but he chose to sign with the Warriors. The team that already won the championship in 2015. The team that won 73 games to set the all-time NBA regular season record. The team that went to war with OKC for 7 games in the Western Conference Finals. Durant could’ve joined any of the other 28 teams in the league and it wouldn’t have been a problem. Instead, Durant went with the old “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. If only 2016 Durant shared the same values as 2010 Durant:

 
 

It’s hard to see why Kevin Durant wouldn’t join the Warriors from a strictly basketball perspective. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson made up the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history while Draymond Green was the DPOY. The Warriors are arguably the greatest team of all time based on individual talent assembled. Some people even go as far to say that the Warriors are simply the greatest team of all time. While joining Golden State gave him the best chance to win every year, Durant’s decision ultimately damaged his career. Rather than forming his own team and leading them to glory, Durant joined an established championship team that stacked the talent too far, making it almost impossible for them to lose. How much credit does Kevin Durant deserve for the Warriors titles when they’re heavy favorites year in and year out? We all acknowledge that Durant is a phenomenal player, but he chose the easiest path to glory instead of earning it like all the other all-time greats.

While it’s primarily meant as a joke, the popular “_____ is more meaningful than KD’s two rings” phrase has some truth to it. Dirk’s ring in 2011 is more meaningful than KD’s two rings. LeBron’s ring for Cleveland’s first ever title in 2016 is more meaningful than KD’s two rings. The list goes on. Durant’s move to Golden State ultimately tarnished his legacy because his titles aren’t as respected by the basketball world compared to the earned title’s of the all-time greats.

Basketball aside, Durant’s move to Golden State changed him for the worse. In 2017, Durant would receive the 14 technicals for the 3rd most in the league and lead the league with 5 ejections. In 2018, Durant would lead the league with 16 technical fouls. KD would also get caught using burner accounts to backstab his former coach and teammates:

 
 

He would later on get caught beefing with teenagers on private chats. Worst of all, he’s been at the center of public team drama, most notably with Draymond Green:

Fans loved Durant in OKC for his humility, class, and professionalism. All of these incidents in Golden State illustrate how Durant is a shadow of his former self. But with his impending free agency, Kevin Durant has a shot at redemption to save his legacy.

A Basketball Tragedy

In game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Durant suffered what was diagnosed as a “right calf strain”. The basketball world knew better. The tape shows Durant looking around as if he thought someone kicked him in the back of the leg. Usually with a non-contact injury like this, it’s a ruptured achilles tendon. Durant would go on to miss a month of playoff basketball until an ill-advised return to game 5 of the NBA Finals. After a promising start with 11 points in 12 minutes, Durant went down once more in heart-breaking fashion:

As we all expected, Durant would be diagnosed with a torn achilles tendon. However, the unexpected silver lining of this injury was our restored admiration towards Kevin Durant. Besides the Warriors organization, no one wanted Durant to return in the playoffs to avoid risking further injury. Durant was in the middle of his prime at 30 years old, entering free agency with no guaranteed dollars. Instead of protecting his career and future, Durant risked it all for his teammates, organization, and fans. And while this selfless act was very admirable, Durant must still seal his legacy in this 2019 NBA Free Agency.

Rise, Kevin Durant

Durant is expected to miss the entirety of the 2019-2020 NBA season. His decision in free agency will determine what team he rehabs with and who he hopes to contend with later on. Durant’s suitors include the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Brooklyn Nets.

It’s no secret that the New York Knicks have been the laughing stock of the NBA for years now with James Dolan universally recognized as the worst owner in the league. Surprisingly, the Knicks made competent decisions to appoint Steve Mills as President, Scott Perry as General Manager, and David Fizdale as Head Coach. These smart hires paved the way to clear up $74 million in cap space for the Knicks to sign two max free agents. As a result, it’s been heavily speculated all season that Kevin Durant would team up with Kyrie Irving in New York. Durant could save his legacy by becoming the savior of the long-suffering Knicks franchise. Unlike signing with the proven Warriors team, the move to New York could give Durant the opportunity to be the best player on a championship team that he formed.

Durant’s path to redemption isn’t limited to signing for the Knicks either. After finishing the season 48-34, the starless Clippers showed their heart by taking the Warriors to 6 games. With an enthusiastic and rich owner in Steve Ballmer, the greatest executive of all time in Jerry West, and a proven championship coach in Doc Rivers, the Clippers would be the perfect destination for Kevin Durant. The Clippers are also the favorites to sign Kawhi Leonard, which makes them even more attractive. Leading the Clippers to their first ever championship in the large market of Los Angeles would do wonders for Durant’s legacy.

Mark Blinch | Getty Images

Durant signing with the Brooklyn Nets is the most anticipated scenario, based on Vegas odds and NBA insiders’ reports. This is no surprise as the Nets finished with an encouraging 42-40 record as the 6th seed in the east. Kenny Atkinson has proved to be a competent head coach in the NBA while Sean Marks has gained respect as a general manager. As an attractive free agent destination, the Nets look to pair Kevin Durant with Kyrie Irving in hopes of becoming instant contenders.

Kevin Durant will undoubtedly retire as one of the most talented scorers to ever play the game. But if he ever wants to elevate his legacy to the likes of the all-time greats, Durant has to leave the Warriors in free agency. By leaving Golden State, Durant can form his own contender to give fans no opportunity to discredit his accomplishments. And while some fans may argue that Durant doesn’t care what we think, the legacy of a player is all that’s left when it’s all said and done. What does Kevin Durant want to be remembered for?