With less fanfare than LeBron James making his famous decision in 2010, Kevin Durant has decided where he will play next season.
In a shocking move, Durant announced on The Players Tribune that he has decided to sign a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors.
The contract only guarantees the first year with the second year as a player option. He will probably decline the option and sign a five year max-contract with the Warriors next off-season.
For his whole career, Durant has played second fiddle. For years he has been the second best player in the NBA; then he became the second option on his own team.
Now, with the rise of Steph Curry and the Warriors, Durant’s team became second best in the West. Durant wanted to be “the guy” in Oklahoma City.
Arguably, the closest he came was in 2011 when Durant and Russell Westbrook fell in the NBA Finals to LeBron and the Miami Heat. The next was this past year when Durant and the Thunder took the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals.
As a free agent, Durant had to make the best decision for himself. He went West and teamed up with Curry and Klay Thompson for what may be the best group of players assembled since the 1996 Chicago Bulls.
Personally, I think this was the best decision Durant could have made. He was not going to win a title in Oklahoma City. With Westbrook as the primary option, Durant was always the secondary piece in their offense.
This is also the end of the line for the Thunder. Back in 2011, they made it to the Finals when they had Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden. They traded away Harden that off-season, and dealt Ibaka on draft day with the Orlando Magic.
Now with just Westbrook, who is a free agent after next season, surrounded by Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, the championship window may have just slammed shut in Oklahoma City.
The money was never an issue. Between his contracts and endorsements, along with the residuals for his 2012 film Thunderstruck, he will be set for life.
For Durant, this decision is all about the jewelry.
Every player dreams of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy and getting to wear their own championship ring. While he is still young and in his prime, he was afraid of joining “the club” of great players to never win a ring.
The club is full of legends like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, but it’s not like those two didn’t try as well. Barkley has been one of Durant’s hardest critics despite going from Philadelphia to Phoenix to Houston all in search of a championship.
Barkley said, “We could have played with some of those other guys and kind of cheated our way to a championship.”
Now it’s all up to Durant. Hopefully for him, he can look back at this decision one day on a long run of championships.