Kevin Durant was last year’s mover and shaker in sports after he made the decision to team up with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson by signing with the Golden State Warriors on July 4. It was his best chance to win a championship for the first time in his future Hall of Fame career.
For the next two weeks, Durant will use the NBA Finals as a platform to validate his decision of signing with the Warriors. He did not sign with the Warriors just to participate in the Finals. The Warriors signed him with the expectation of delivering them a championship. Anything less than that is a failure for both him and the Warriors.
For a change, all eyes will be on the polarizing Warrior rather than LeBron James, his Finals counterpart. That’s what happens when a superstar takes the easy way out by joining two superstars in his pursuit of a championship.
James does not have pressure anymore. He already won a championship for his hometown team last year by engineering a comeback to beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena after a 3-1 Finals deficit, and he has three championships to show for it. He will likely get more when all is said and done. Even if the Cleveland Cavaliers lose in this year’s Finals, it would be hard to be on his case after his best moment of his career last year.
Durant does not have that luxury. He’s already has pressure as it is to win a championship. This is his 10th year in the league, and he’s in the prime years of his career at the age of 28. He had one NBA Finals appearance as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, and he came out in the losing end to James, who won his first NBA championship that year. He needs to get at least one championship to complete his basketball resume.
He knows great players are judged by how many championships they have, and he does care about his legacy. He wants to be remembered as a champion, even if he is more of a third player for the Warriors than being the guy. That was his motivation to play with the Splash Brothers.
That’s why there is so much riding for Durant here. He has to show he can win with Thompson and Curry. If he can’t get it done, rest assured there will be criticism for him. Remember the criticism James had when he couldn’t win a championship in his first year with the Heat? This is what the former Thunder star will endure if he does not accomplish his goal. It could be 100 times worse.
Even if Durant wins his first championship, it’s going to be meaningless. He will be known as a player that could not win a championship on his own. It would be like Deron Williams winning a championship for the Cavaliers, even though he did not have much to do with it. Only thing this Warrior can get out of it is he won’t be the brunt of jokes and criticism. But he won’t care. He will take a championship anyway he can. Don’t expect him to apologize for it, either.
Most of America want to see him and the Warriors lose. They are disgusted about his decision last year to leave the Thunder and join the star-studded Warriors. Seeing super teams does not excite basketball fans unless it’s their own team. Most basketball fans want to see a star lead his own team rather than join forces with the other stars. It’s why the Warriors have become a hated team rather than a team that was beloved for their style of play the last two years.
Despite all that, everyone will tune in to see how Durant and the Warriors fare. Seeing them lose would give them satisfaction. The intrigue of that scenario will get people to watch. After all, every sporting event needs a villain, and Durant plays that role well. It’s why the NBA and ABC have to be ecstatic to see the Warriors vs. Cavaliers in this year’s Finals. It should be a ratings bonanza.
To Durant’s credit, he has embraced the role of being a villain. He has had another great season. He has not let critics get to him. But then again, no one cared what he was going to do until the Finals arrived.
Now, we are going to find out how he handles the pressure. He is going to have to be great if the Warriors beat the Cavaliers. He is going to have to be assertive and be the alpha guy rather than be a bit player. There’s a chance he may have to take the game-winning shots for the Warriors to win some games in the Finals.
The game always seems to find a way to come to Durant and James. We know the Cavaliers star is capable of creating a big moment, but can Durant? That should be the most climatic part of this year’s Finals. We are still waiting for his signature moment in his NBA career.
Durant made his Fourth of July decision for moments like the Finals. It’s up to him to show he made the right decision for himself by playing well and hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. If the Warriors win a championship, it will be his size and strength that turns out to be the difference maker.
If the Warriors lose to the Cavaliers, it won’t be the fault of Curry’s or Thompson’s. It’s going to be on Durant fair or not. This is what happens when he shook the league by making the decision to join a star-studded team. He knows the consequences that comes with it.
Even if he wins it all, it is going to feel empty. It won’t have that feeling that James had when he ended Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought last year.
Only thing about Durant winning a championship is it will save him from ridicule, criticism and Internet memes.