A couple of hours ago the biggest decision in free agency was finally made. Kevin Durant, arguably the most prized free agent since LeBron James six years prior, made his choice. He has left OKC for sunnier pastures, golden ones to be exact. Kevin Durant announced he will be taking his talents to Oakland now making him a member of the Golden State Warriors.
Let me be the first to say; this wasn’t a bad decision at all. It is completely understandable why a player would want to join the Warriors, have you seen the level of success they are having? The issue is the fact the said player is Kevin Durant, but then again that’s not the reason why I’m writing this column, I can get into that at a different time. I’m writing because Durant’s decision has brought up a lot of talk about an old one, LeBron’s to be exact.
A lot of comparisons have been made between the Decision and the Decision 2.0 (Durant’s decision). Some people feel that he did the same thing LeBron did. They both could not win with the team they were with so they went to a better opportunity. If you think about it like that then yes, but then also you are glossing over several key details. Let’s start with Miami.
Pre-Miami Heat LeBron
The last season before James came into town was the 09-10 season. That year Miami went 47-35 and finished as the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Boston Celtics, which was their fourth straight first round exit. Wade was on the team, but after Wade, there was no one else, their next best player was Jermaine O’Neal. Clearly, Miami was no contender at this point.
That same season also happened to be LeBron’s final in Cleveland. That season the Cavs were the best team in the league, finishing an NBA-best 61-21 and LeBron won his second straight MVP award. They lost to the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the second round of the playoffs. Later that offseason, LeBron would take his talents to South Beach.
Miami was not a contender before LeBron got there. LeBron made them into a contender. I don’t think we can say the same for Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors, can we?
Pre- Golden State Durant
The whole season we witnessed history by the 2016 Warriors team. They raced out to a 24-0 record and finished 73-9 giving them the best regular season ever. They finished the year with three All-Stars, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry, who also made history by becoming the first ever unanimous MVP. They would face OKC in the West Finals overcoming a 3-1 deficit to advance to the Finals where they lost to LeBron and the Cavaliers.
The 2016 Thunder had a pretty good season too. They finished the season 55-27. They had two All-Stars in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. They were the third seed in the playoffs and knocked off both the Dallas Mavericks and the Spurs on the way to the West Finals. They were up 3-1 on Golden State before losing three straight elimination games to Curry and the Warriors.
Now that we know the background of the two players and the four teams involved, it’s easy to see where the similarities and the differences lie.
LeBron left an underachieving Cavalier team that came with a lot of personal baggage for a Miami team that quite frankly hadn’t competed for a championship in years.
Durant left a Thunder team one game away from an NBA Finals appearance for the team that stopped him from that Finals appearance.
LeBron never met the Miami Heat in the playoffs because Miami could never get out of the first round.
Durant joined the one team he couldn’t beat. He went to the team that is coming off back to back Finals appearances.
Yes, Miami was a super-team; Wade, Bosh, and LeBron, a big three. But out of those three LeBron was clearly the best player, and outside of Wade’s championship, the most accomplished.
But what was Golden State then? The best regular season team ever. They already had a big three in Curry, Green, and Thompson plus the deepest bench in the league. Did I mention they won the championship the year prior?
All the things people doubted about Kevin Durant is cemented with this decision. He proved he is mentally weak. He couldn’t close the deal against the Warriors,a 3-1 deal by the way, so he joined them. The issue is not that he left Oklahoma, but it’s the team he departed Oklahoma for. If he went to New York or Boston or Miami, we wouldn’t be having this debate. When LeBron left, he didn’t join the Boston Celtics, the team that continually knocked him out the playoffs, heck he didn’t even join the Orlando Magic. He went to a team he had to make a contender. Kevin Durant is going to a team that already was contending and were built to contend for years to come. That is the weakest superstar move I have ever seen and probably the weakest in NBA history.
And that’s the issue at hand.
Who knows, Durant might finally get what he wants, a ring, maybe multiple rings. What I do know is no matter how many championships Durant wins with Golden State, whether it’s one or six, they will all have an asterisk beside them.
And God forbid Golden State doesn’t win any, his career will never live it down.
But one thing is for certain; we are in for the most compelling season since LeBron’s first in Miami.
And I am very excited about that.
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