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KD felt Warriors were 'underdog' when he signed with them originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
When Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in the summer of 2016, many experts, analysts and fans criticized him for joining a team that had just won a title two years ago and had just eliminated him and the Oklahoma City Thunder from the NBA playoffs.
Many viewed Durant's decision as "soft," believing he joined a team that had just won an NBA-record 73 games and was one win away from repeating as champions.
But Durant's decision to leave OKC and join the behemoth by the Bay is more nuanced than that. Durant explained on the "Million Dollaz Worth of Game" podcast that he viewed the Warriors as talented and hungry enough to win a championship with, but also as "underdogs."
"That first experience of me going [to the NBA Finals], it was just like, 'Nah, I need to experience that again. And I want to be on that stage again,'" Durant said of his Finals appearance with the Thunder in 2012. "And that run that we went, from 2012 from the first round to the Finals, that was the most fun I had playing basketball. And I was like, 'I need this experience again. I don’t care who it’s with. I want some dudes that want it, too. I just need to experience that again.' Because I felt more alive. I felt like this is what I should be doing on Earth at this point, is playing the game. So, when I experienced that run, I’m like, 'I’m craving for that again.'
"I seen that that’s a great team that wants to win, fun environment, great city. Oakland is like D.C. It felt like I was riding through Southeast," Durant continued. "The organization never been a winning organization. When I was in the league, nobody liked Golden State. So, it felt still like an underdog to me. Because I’m looking at the totality of the franchise. I ain’t looking at what happened these last five years. You’ve never been a perennial winner in the NBA -- from the 50s on up.
"So, I’m like, 'Damn, that’s an underdog franchise to me. This feels good,' like, 'S--t, this feels like where I’m supposed to be.' It ain’t L.A. It ain’t New York. It feel like where I’m supposed to be. And I think they’re going to give me that experience that I want, that run of like, 'S--t, we’re about to go on a run trying to win 16 games.' I wanted that feeling again. We did that s--t three times. I was on that high three times. Man, s--t, I don’t want to go nowhere else. I wanted to do nothing else in the NBA besides go on a run like that. We might not win it. But to know we can go on a run to be one of the last teams, that s--t is fun."
Durant's choice paid off, as he and the Warriors ripped through the NBA during the 2016-17 season, including going 16-1 in the playoffs en route to an NBA title. The following season wasn't as smooth, but the Warriors survived the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets and once again won the title.
Only injuries and exhaustion kept the Warriors from threepeating in 2019. Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the Finals against the Toronto Raptors, and Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6, putting an end to one of the most dominant runs in NBA history.
Durant's legacy always will be tied to his decision to join the Warriors. Those who hate fun and take themselves way too seriously will criticize him for "taking the easy way out" and not trying to "win one on his own."
That's all nonsense if you ask me. Anyone in any profession would take a chance at a better opportunity in a better location with the opportunity to do bigger things and elevate their career. The NBA is no different.
Durant wanted to play basketball in its purest form, and he wanted to do so alongside champions who craved titles and championship runs as much as he did.
The Warriors, underdog or not, gave him everything he wanted, and he more than returned the favor, helping create the greatest collection of talent in NBA history.