When people say the name “Kevin Durant” these days, they don’t think kindly of him because he left his Oklahoma City Thunder for a Golden State Warriors team that won 73 out of 82 regular season games. For this reason, Durant is labeled a “snake” by many basketball fans. But how good was he with the Thunder before leaving them in 2016, and why do basketball fans now see him as a “villain” or a “snake”? Will he ever go back to the Thunder?
The Seattle Supersonics drafted Kevin Durant out of the University of Texas with the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Durant had a great rookie season, averaging more than twenty points per game in his first year, and he was named the Rookie of the Year. He spent only one year in Seattle, before the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City and were renamed the Oklahoma City Thunder. Overall, KD spent nine years with the team that first drafted him. Russell Westbrook came to the team in 2008, and James Harden in 2009, and the three of them formed a dominating trio. Durant, Harden, and Westbrook made the playoffs as a trio in 2010, 2011, and 2012, including trips to the Western Conference Finals in 2011 and 2012. OKC won the Western Conference championship in 2012, and they faced a Miami Heat team that featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the 2012 NBA Finals. However, the series did not last very long, as the Thunder were defeated in five games, and the Heat won their second NBA title in franchise history. KD was pretty disappointed when they lost, so much so that he did not even congratulate the Heat players on the court.1 Kevin Durant was shook and emotional when going back to the locker room, knowing that it was his only chance to win a championship.
The summer of 2012 was interesting for Durant and the Thunder. Durant’s former teammate and big three member James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets due to disagreements on a contract extension. In an interview that featured both Durant and Harden in the year 2015, KD said that people should stop making a big deal about the trade that sent his former teammate to the Rockets.2 Durant also participated in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, representing Team USA. They were completely dominant, and they won the gold medal that year. He was a key player in the USA’s gold medal run, because he was one of the leading scorers on the team. KD is already known as a prolific scorer today.
Durant was named the regular season MVP in the 2013-2014 NBA season. He was very emotional when he addressed his mother, paying her tribute for what he had done for him and his siblings while their father was away from the family. KD grew up in a rough Washington, DC area, so this meant he did not have the best childhood. This was why he turned to the game of basketball, so he could do something that would make him successful. He emotionally thanked his mother for “keeping us off the streets, putting clothes on our backs, and putting food on the table, and when we ate you didn’t eat to make sure we were being fed.” He called his mother “the real MVP” upon receiving the award.3
KD was diagnosed with a Jones fracture in his foot before the 2014-2015 season began, and he was ruled out for six to eight weeks, missing the first seventeen games of the year.4 This season was injury-plagued for Durant, and in February 2015, he sprained his left big toe.5 Then in February, Durant had a procedure in order to help him reduce pain and discomfort in the same foot that had surgery due to the Jones fracture. His 2015 season came to an end as he was shut down for the rest of the season to have foot surgery, and due to only playing 27 games in the season, the Thunder would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009. This resulted in the firing of Scott Brooks, who was the head coach of the team for seven years. This injury-plagued season for Durant motivated him to be an even better player, hoping to be able to lead the Thunder to the playoffs again the next year.
The 2015-2016 season was better for Durant, since he was coming off of foot surgery from an injury he sustained the year prior. He and Russell Westbrook led the Warriors to the third seed in the Western Conference, and reached the conference finals for the third time as a duo. They faced the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. OKC won Game 1 and stole home court advantage under the leadership of Durant and Westbrook. Despite losing Game 2, the Thunder won Games 3 and 4 to take a 3-1 series lead against the 73-9 Warriors. Throughout the next three games, the Thunder were only one win from the NBA Finals. The Thunder failed to win one more game, thus blowing a 3-1 lead, and fell to the Warriors in seven games. This Western Conference Finals loss took a toll on Kevin Durant, since it would affect his decision on where to sign going into the 2016 off-season. There was speculation that he could sign with the Warriors in the 2016 off-season. He participated in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of Team USA, winning the gold medal.6 However, what KD coveted was an NBA championship since he had only gotten one chance to win one many years ago, but blew it.
The OKC superstar announced that he intended to leave the Oklahoma City and that he was signing a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors. Durant penned a letter on The Players’ Tribune called “My Next Chapter.” KD stated that he was mainly focusing on his growth as a player and searching for new opportunities. This was the reason why he was signing with the Warriors.7 Upon hearing these news, the basketball world went into fury. NBA fans and even analysts compared this move to Lebron’s decision to join the Miami Heat in 2010. People called KD a “snake” and called his move weak, since he joined a Golden State team that won 73 regular season games in the previous year. KD did not seem to care what other people thought of his move, because he was embracing all the hate he was receiving from many basketball fans. This move he made gave him an opportunity to possibly win an NBA championship.
The 2016-2017 season was Durant’s first season with the Golden State Warriors. In his first game, the Spurs defeated the Warriors in Oracle Arena by a score of 129-100, with KD scoring 27 points. The Warriors formed a “Fab Four,” which featured NBA All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green. On February 11, 2017, the Warriors traveled to OKC to play Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Durant was greeted with heavy boos from the Thunder fans, since he was the reason why the Thunder had been one of the best NBA teams in recent years. He even got in a confrontation with former teammate and Wagner High School product Andre Roberson. After the regular season concluded, the Warriors earned the first seed in the Western Conference. The team went undefeated in the first three rounds of the 2017 playoffs, and faced the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third consecutive year. In Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals, Durant dribbled up the floor and pulled up from about thirty feet out and shot a three-pointer and it went in. This shot by KD is one of the most clutch shots in NBA Finals history, and the Warriors went up 3-0 in the series. The Warriors ended up winning in five games, giving Durant his first NBA championship. He was named the Finals MVP after leading the Warriors against the Cavs.8 He finally won his first NBA championship after ten years in the league, but it will not be his only championship.
Durant’s second season with the Warriors was in the 2017/2018 season. KD, Curry, Thompson, and Green were named All-Stars for the second consecutive year, which was the first time in NBA history that one team had four All-Stars in consecutive seasons. The Warriors did not clinch the first seed and they finished second behind the Houston Rockets. It was actually the first time in four seasons that the Warriors did not win at least 65 games; they went 58-24 last season. The Warriors eliminated the Rockets in seven games in the conference finals, which was a very tough series. They were down 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals, but Houston’s starting point guard Chris Paul got injured and that turned the series in the Warriors’ favor after that, winning the series 4-3. The 2018 Finals would be Durant’s third trip to the Finals, facing off the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth straight year. The Warriors won Game 1 due to a blunder by Cavs guard/forward JR Smith, who dribbled out the ball while the game was tied, and the clock expired as a result. In Game 3, KD dribbled up the ball just past half-court and launched a three-pointer, which was nothing but net and it went in. This moment was similar to Game 3 of the Finals the previous year as well. The Warriors went on to win the series 4-0, becoming the first and only team in NBA Finals history to sweep multiple times in the Finals. Durant was named the Finals MVP for the second straight year after once again leading the Warriors to victory against the Cavs.9
People believed that Durant’s move to the Warriors was weak. Despite people calling him a “snake,” there is no denying that Durant is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, as he has won four scoring titles in his career. In a 2017 interview, KD revealed that the reason he left OKC for the Warriors was to play with one of the greatest teams the league had ever seen, and that he wanted to play alongside NBA All-Stars Curry and Thompson.10 People may call Durant names like “snake” and “villain,” but he is a great basketball player. Off the court, he is a philanthropist, as he founded the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation. Durant is one of the best basketball players of the decade, and is for sure a future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Perhaps one day, Kevin Durant may return to the Oklahoma City Thunder when his career is about to end.
- Steve Perrin, “For Thunder, NBA Finals Loss Is A Rite Of Passage,” June 22, 2012, https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2012/6/22/3109691/oklahoma-city-thunder-miami-heat-nba-finals-2012. ↵
- Darnell Mayberry and Anthony Slater, “Q&A: Kevin Durant Opens Up About the James Harden Trade, Free Agency and His Relationship with the Media,” February 18, 2015, https://newsok.com/article/5394491/qa-kevin-durant-opens-up-about-the-james-harden-trade-free-agency-and-his-relationship-with-the-media. ↵
- Mark Stein and Tom Haberstoh, “Kevin Durant Wins First MVP Award,” May 8, 2014, http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/10890597/kevin-durant-oklahoma-city-wins-mvp-award-first. ↵
- Royce Young, “Kevin Durant Fractures Foot,” ESPN, October 13, 2014, http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/11688088/kevin-durant-oklahoma-city-thunder-fractured-foot. ↵
- Jason Butt, “Report: Kevin Durant injury a sprain, not turf toe,” CBS Sports, February 3, 2015, https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/report-kevin-durant-injury-a-sprain-not-turf-toe/. ↵
- Kyle Neubeck, “Team USA Wins 2016 Olympic Basketball Gold Medal,” August 21, 2016, https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2016/8/21/12574002/team-usa-wins-2016-olympic-basketball-gold-medal. ↵
- Kevin Durant, “My Next Chapter,” July 4, 2016, The Players’ Tribune, https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/kevin-durant-nba-free-agency-announcement. ↵
- Scott Cacciola, “Warriors Win NBA Title, Avenging Themselves Against the Cavaliers,” The New York Times, June 13, 2017, https://nytimes.com/2017/06/13/sports/golden-state-warriors-win-nba-finals-stephen-curry-lebron-james/. ↵
- Jason Duaine Hahn, “Golden State Warriors Win NBA Finals — in What Might Be LeBron James’ Last Game as a Cavalier,” People, June 8, 2018, https://people.com/sports/golden-state-warriors-win-nba-finals-stephen-curry-lebron-james/. ↵
- Tom Ziller, “This is Why Kevin Durant Left Russell Westbrook and the Thunder,” June 5, 2017, https://www.sbnation.com/2017/6/5/15739352/kevin-durant-russell-westbrook-golden-state-warriors-nba-finals-2017. ↵