Kevin Durant has become one of the faces of the National Basketball Association and that is part of the reason that led co-chairman and CEO of the Golden State Warriors, Joe Lacob, to announce that following Durant’s departure from the bay area, nobody else will wear No. 35 as long as Lacob is with the team.
For non-basketball fans, Durant made his NBA debut with the then-Seattle SuperSonics in the 2008-2009 season and played eight years once the franchise turned into the Oklahoma City Thunder. When he became a free agent before the 2016 season, he decided to return to the western part of the country and created a super team in the Golden State Warriors, adding on top of two lights-out shooters in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and big man Draymond Green who were all already perennial all-stars.
That year, the team lost just 15 games, with only one of those coming in the postseason, en route to being crowned NBA champions while being led by the four aforementioned stars who all averaged double-digit point totals.
The next year, most of the same team returned and went on to lose all of 24 games, five of them in the playoffs, but finished atop the NBA again with Durant also notching a second consecutive Finals MVP award.
This season, there were rumors of rifts within the locker room and reports that Durant already had his sights set outside of California for the next step in his basketball career and the opening of free agency confirmed just that.
Despite tearing his Achilles tendon in the finals, which the Warriors ultimately lost, he declined his player option to stay in Golden State and instead signed a four-year, $164 million deal to play alongside close friend Kyrie Irving (who left Boston despite saying he was going to re-sign there, whatever) for the new-look Brooklyn Nets, not your father’s New Jersey Nets.
Durant is still on pace to miss a healthy majority, if not all, of the 2019-2020 season while recovering from the torn tendon but Lacob wanted to ensure Durant’s legacy will not be soon forgotten in the golden state.
The co-chairman and CEO released a statement the day after it was announced Durant was teaming up with Irving in Brooklyn where he thanked Durant for changing the landscape of Warrior basketball.
“Three years ago, we were thrilled with the arrival of Kevin Durant, a transformative NBA player and one of the best to ever play the game. He provided our fans and franchise with numerous highlights during his stay here,” he said. “Today, as he starts a new chapter in his incredible career, we thank KD for all of his contributions, for being an integral part to one of the most prolific runs in NBA history and wish him well as he continues his Hall of Fame journey. As long as I am co-chairman of this team, no player will ever wear number 35 for the Warriors again.”
When Durant first signed in the Golden State, he was called a ring-chaser and was bashed for taking the easy way out and aligning superstars to cruise to a championship, and they did just that. He got two rings, got hurt in the pursuit of a third, and poof, see ya.
Now, he’s being rewarded for it? What?
Not only did he play just 208 games with a team, but he used the team as a stepping stone to get what he wanted and threw it away when he was done. He turned some teammates into enemies all just so he could get his name etched in history and I truly hope that is what he gets remembered for.
I’m not trying to take anything away from his talents on the court and I agree that he is a transformational player and is easily one of the best in today’s game without a doubt. But the fact that the ring-chasing was so obvious, and that he’s now being championed for it sets a poor example.
The seismic shift he made in the league forced other superstars to team up just in hopes of competing with a practical all-star team and that has diminished the overall excitement around the sport to me.
For those three years, you could basically pencil in the Warriors to the NBA Finals because there was not a Western Conference team that could stack up to them star for star and therefore nobody posed a single threat to them. It certainly made things interesting in the east, but it was always, “Which one of these teams can beat the Warriors?”
There will be less of those thoughts flying around and I think for that, the upcoming season will be immensely more interesting than the last one. To play just three seasons with a team (I get he played in nothing but championships at the end of those seasons) and to get your number retired is a disgrace to the rest of the retired numbers in the rafters.
The shortest stint of a player who actually achieved that honor with the team was twice as long as Durant spent, and the two players are named Tom Meschery and Wilt Chamberlin. The next shortest was eight, then 11, then 13 years (Chris Mullen) and I would love to hear those guys’ thoughts on No. 35 all but joining them.