Almost two years passed since Kevin Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors.
His announcement came in the form of a letter through the Players’ Tribune. Kevin Durant’s decision led him to become somewhat of a villainous character. However, Durant has drawn comparisons to LeBron and his decision.
Here’s a list of reasons why that comparison shouldn’t be made.
The Heat and Warriors were two different type of teams
The Miami Heat in 2009-10 went 47-35 and were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the first round in 5 games. LeBron’s Cavaliers were eliminated in the second round in 6 games to, you guessed it, the Boston Celtics. Chris Bosh and the Raptors didn’t even make the playoffs. The Big 4 Boston Celtics reigned supreme in the East.
The Golden State Warriors won a championship in 2015 and went 73-9 in 2016. Yes, they lost to the Cavaliers, but barely. They were up 3-1, but it took LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to play historically great basketball to win that series. Even in game 7 the Warriors only lost by 4 points! The Warriors were already an elite team, and the Heat had to build an elite team.
The Heat Needed LeBron and the Warriors didn’t need Durant
Do you really believe a team with an injury prone Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would’ve been enough to win a championship, or did the addition of LeBron elevate them to contender status? We already know the answer to this one. The Warriors on the other hand played in 2 NBA finals and won a championship at that point.
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Look at what Steve Kerr said about Kevin Durant recently. He had this to say:
Kevin is the ultimate luxury. A play can break down and you just throw him the ball. He can get you a bucket as well as anybody on earth.
Luxuries are usually things you don’t need, but are nice to have. This must’ve been a Freudian slip by Steve Kerr because that’s precisely what Durant is to this team. They didn’t need him, but it’s certainly good having him.
The Aftermath of their Decision
When LeBron joined the Miami Heat, they made it to the NBA Finals their first year together. They ended up losing to the Dallas Mavericks who had more depth and played exceptional defence. The Heat had chemistry issues and LeBron struggled, but it was clear that Dallas was the better team.
In 2012 the Heat barely made it past the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals and were down 3-2. It took a historic performance from LeBron to win that series. They faced the Thunder in the finals, and for context, many oddsmakers, analysts and experts picked the Thunder to win that series. The Heat ended up winning in 5 games.
In 2013, the Heat had to battle the Celtics and Pacers before getting back to the finals. They almost lost in 6 games to the Spurs, but the Heat miraculously came back and forced a game 7. They ended up winning the championship.
In 2014 the Heat once again battled their way back to the Finals only to lose to the Spurs in 5 games.
All of this is to say the Heat still had to face tough or better teams and struggled to win championships.
In Durant’s first playoffs run with the Warriors, they went 12-1 in the playoffs, sweeping almost every team they faced. They only lost 1 game to the Cavaliers in the finals, but defeated them in 5 games. This year so far, they swept the Spurs, beat the Pelicans in 5, and will most likely dismantle the Houston Rockets. Whoever comes out of the East will share a similar fate. The Warriors are consistently the favourites going into every series, and no team in the league currently has the depth, or talent, to make things competitive with them.
Look at the Teams They Left Behind
When LeBron left Cleveland, he didn’t nearly have the talent required to compete for a championship. Look at the graphic below for the team’s roster going into the playoffs. LeBron was also unable to attract free agents to join him in Cleveland to compete for a championship. He was considered unproven. Once he won championships, how many players took pay cuts to join him on a quest to compete for a title?
Kevin Durant had a far superior team. Review the graphic below for context.
He played with another superstar in Westbrook and had a well-balanced team on both sides of the court. They were up 3-1 on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and were 48 minutes away from making the NBA Finals. Instead, he failed to close the series out and the Warriors came back to eliminate them.
To be clear, people aren’t upset with his decision to leave Oklahoma, but instead of the team he chose to go to. People weren’t mad that LeBron chose to go to Miami, but instead at the way he announced his decision. It’s not the same.
Kevin Durant won a ring and will likely win more, which you could say validated his decision to leave. However, the manner in which he won will taint the impact of said rings. Casual fans may not care, but basketball enthusiasts such as myself and many others will always place an asterisk beside those rings won with the Warriors.
Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and many others are lauded for overcoming adversity and criticism on their path to winning rings. Kevin Durant has essentially taken the path of least resistance to his championships.
Hopefully, the comparisons (and online arguments) end here.