Kevin Durant on pay cut: “It’s my money… I can do what the hell I want with it”

Kurt Helin
NBC Sports

Kevin Durant told the Golden State Warriors he was going to save a little money this summer — then he saved them nearly $10 million, taking a pay cut from what he made last season ($1.5 million less) when he could have gotten a raise. It was all in the name of keeping a title team together while letting Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and others get paid.

Durant took some criticism for this, mostly because there are people still bitter he joined the Warriors the year before. (If you say rings are the most important factor in a player’s legacy, then criticize him for going to the team where he’s most likely to win a ring, then sacrificing to keep that team together, you are a hypocrite.)

Durant addressed his pay cut in an interview with Anthony Slater for The Athletic Bay Area (which has put together a heck of a staff and is worth subscribing to).

DURANT: Well, I’m a smart guy and I want to keep this thing going and looking at Andre and Shaun (Livingston) and Steph (Curry) — they all should make the most money that they can make and get what they deserve. Because they were all underpaid and I knew at some point they’d want to get what they deserve. So I just took a step back and let the chips fall where they may. Then I took it in my hands. I wanted to keep the team together and I thought it was going to help the ownership bring all the guys back. And on top of that, it’s my money. It’s my decision. I can do what the hell I want with it.

Q: Were you surprised by some of the blowback?

DURANT: They only (criticized) it because it’s the Warriors and it’s me and they love to hate anything we do right now. A lot of players have (taken pay-cuts). It wasn’t that I wanted the praise. I’ve learned from Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki and how it has helped them over the years and I thought, if they did it, why can’t I? Why shouldn’t I sacrifice? People wanted the money to break us up and I didn’t want that to happen.

Isn’t taking less and prioritizing winning what we want athletes to do? Yes, he makes a lot off his shoe deal (and winning rings will help raise his and his shoe’s profile), but there’s a mindset among many elite players to squeeze every dollar they can get out of ownership. Durant didn’t.

Durant could have opted out and gotten a contract starting at $34.7 million a year, but had said from the start he wouldn’t do that, he would save the team some money. It was expected he would take the max 20 percent raise the Warriors could give him off his old contract, which would have been at $31.6 million next season.

Instead, he signed a two-year, $53 million deal and will take a pay cut this year down to $25 million. That cap space allowed the Warriors to keep its core together — Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Zaza Pachulia will be back, and the team added players such as Nick Young and Omri Casspi. The Warriors should be improved next season, better than the 67-win, NBA champion they just were. Durant’s sacrifice was part of that.

And if you don’t like it, he doesn’t care.

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