Kevin Durant’s story is still being written, but if he’s to hang up his sneakers today, he would be remembered as one of the greatest scorers of all time and one of the best to play for the Golden State Warriors.
While his time in the Bay was filled with a mix of love and hate, Durant’s three-season stint with the Warriors wasn’t dull or uneventful. It was both dominant and dramatic from start to finish.
Now, as he returns to the Bay Area with the Brooklyn Nets for the first time since leaving in the summer of 2019, we take a look back at the four moments that will always define his time with the Dubs.
4. The Achilles Tear
The worst moment in Kevin Durant’s tenure as a Warrior kicks off this list at number four.
Facing a wave of relentless media attention, Durant trucked through a calf injury, rehabbing his way back into Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals with the Warriors down 3-1 to the Toronto Raptors.
Despite the pressure, the injury and the circumstance, he played extraordinarily well–something he always did as a Warrior.
He hit three first-quarter threes and denied Toronto’s Pascal Siakam at the rim, spooking both the Raptors’ players and fans. The basketball world then came to a consensus that the Warriors would come back to win the series, but then the injury happened.
Durant tore his Achilles in the second quarter. Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry helped carry KD to the locker room. He was off to the hospital before the second half started, long gone by the time the Warriors stole that game–a win that wouldn’t happened without Durant’s first-quarter heroics.
That’s what made his final night as a Warrior a summary of his legacy with the team. He wasn’t there when the series started and he disappeared by the time it ended, similar to his role in the Warriors’ dynasty.
What will you remember most about the Durant seasons? Curry was asked that question ahead of KD’s return to Golden State.
“It was some of the best basketball the world has ever seen,” Curry responded.
3. The Cupcake Game
Durant’s return to his first team was one made for cinema. It was less than six months after he switched allegiances and a little under a year since the franchises went to seven games in the Western Conference Finals–withDurant and the Oklahoma City Thunder losing a 3-1 to the Warriors.
The wound was still fresh, the emotions raw as ever, and the tensions skyrocketing because of Durant’s decision.
The NBA had its best rating options until after the Super Bowl, and they decided that the Durant-Westbrook card was that option.
Durant went out and did KD things, scoring 34 points in a blowout win. His teammates stuck up for him during the night’s on-court scuffles and postgame in their media comments.
It was also an early indication that no matter the circumstance, no matter if he was depicted as the villain or hero, Durant’s scoring ability was unfathomable.
2. The First Ship
There is a narrative around the league that Durant wasn’t fulfilled by the Warriors’ dominance, something noted by his current head coach Steve Nash.
Despite this narrative, it is clear that his first championship with the Dubs was something special for Durant.
He kept describing the feeling as “angelic” and embraced any interaction, taking photos with Bill Russell, his family, the entire Curry family, even actor Michael Rapaport, who was still randomly wandering around the court as if he was the Spike Lee to the Knicks.
Durant was fully embraced in the Warriors’ comradery and in awe with the feeling of finally hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
1. The Clippers Series
Kevin Durant’s tenure with the Warriors took a dark turn after his argument with Draymond Green. In the final six games of the 2019 season, Durant’s shot-attempt totals were: 5, 13, 7, 14, 7, 10. For what it’s worth, he attempts around 19 shots per game on average for his career and averaged about 18 shots attempts in his Warriors career.
Granted he still played well, as his is skillset and versatility were enough for Durant to assume the Harrison Barnes role and still stumble into an efficient 20 points. Also, when you have Stephen Curry by your side, it’s easy to grab wins while deferring.
However, the playoffs required more. Durant took 16 shots in a Game 1 win in the first round over the Los Angeles Clippers. He followed that performance by only attempting eight shots in 34 minutes, while turning the ball over nine times–due to a mix of checked out overpassing and a few Patrick Beverley-induced charges. The Warriors blew a 20-point second-half lead and those reduced shot attempts by Durant finally became a national talking point.
Durant heard the noise and had to check the media, delivering the “You know who I am…I’m Kevin Durant” soundbite the next day.
Kevin Durant: “I’m not going to go out there and shoot 20, 30 shots. I don’t play like that.” pic.twitter.com/jWafBVmXnG
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 17, 2019
Durant went on to average 41 points on 57 percent shooting from the field. He annihilated a very good Clipper defense and then went on one of the most efficient scoring tears in playoff history until his calf injury against the Houston Rockets.
Within a week, the narrative turned from Durant’s lack of assertiveness into Durant possibly being the best basketball player on the planet.
The ability to turn it on and off whenever he felt like it defined his time as a Warrior–as well as the Golden State dynasty as a whole.
When looking back at the said Warriors team with the Slim Reaper, from its inception to its cinematic breakup, the media’s daily psychological analysis of the players and coaching staff always stands out. The most glaring fact worth remembering about the Dubs, though, is their ability to consistently remind fans and haters alike who they were whenever they felt like it.
Kevin Durant was always the leader in the latter.