Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Giannis Antetokounmpo On Growing Up Undocumented, Taking on LeBron and MVP

This story was originally published on Time.com.

In 2013,Giannis Antetokounmpo, then 18 years old, finished a season in which he averaged 9.5 points and 5 rebounds for a second-division Greek pro team. Not exactly eye-popping statistics. Yet the Milwaukee Bucks picked Antetokounmpo 15th overall in that year's NBA draft, betting that the lithe, 6'11" son of undocumented Nigerian immigrants to Greece could one day develop all-around skills that might conjure up comparisons to, say, Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant.

Milwaukee's gamble has reversed the fortunes of the small-market franchise. Four years after the Bucks drafed Antetokounmpo, the man now known as the Greek Freak is on his way toward joining Durant, LeBron James, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the "best-player-on-the-planet" conversation. Last season, Antetokounmpo became the first player in NBA history to finish Top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.

During a wide-ranging interview at the Bucks' shiny new training complex in downtown Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo—one of TIME's 2017 Next Generation Leaders —discussed his unlikely journey to the top of the NBA, the lessons he's learned along the way, and his career goals, which include nothing less than a title and MVP award. The Bucks open the 2016-17 season on Wednesday, when they take on the Boston Celtics in Boston.

(The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity)

What was your reaction to the blockbuster trade this summer in which the Cleveland Cavaliers sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas and a bunch of other players and draft picks?

I was sitting at home, smiling. I think we have an opportunity right here, as an organization, to do something great. A lot of people from the East moved to the West. The East still has a lot of great players. But Kyrie left LeBron James. Isaiah Thomas left Boston. So both teams have new faces. They’ve got to figure it out as a team first, right? We have the same core from last year. We’re only going to get better. This our opportunity to go high.

This is the fourth year where we have the same core with this team. Year-by-year we're figuring it out. We're becoming stronger and stronger and older and older. And I think we're going to do great things this year. I think we have a realistic goal of being top four in the East. By saying that, I don’t want to put pressure on my teammates and stuff. But that’s a realistic goal we can achieve.

We've seen several players over the years leave small market teams—Kevin Durant exiting Oklahoma City for Golden State the most prominent example. You're signed with Milwaukee through 2021. Can see yourself here long-term?

Milwaukee is a small market team, but I love it. I’m a really competitive guy. I’m a really stubborn guy. That’s what makes me want to take Milwaukee to the top, make Milwaukee a big market team. That’s a goal I’ve set for myself. Hopefully one day I can achieve it.

Milwaukee is really quiet. The people here are really respectful. They can see me in the street, walking on the road. I can go to anyplace in Milwaukee without people being all over me. I appreciate that.

This is a team that helped me, drafted me with the 15th pick. I wasn’t ready to be in the NBA but they still drafted me, so I appreciate it. The organization, from day one, simple things like fixing me a bank account, moving me into my apartment, things like that I couldn't do by myself because my family wasn’t here with me. I was 18. I want to show my appreciation for them. They showed me loyalty so I want to show loyalty back to them. Hopefully I can be here on this team for more years to come.

Sports Illustrated reported that at one point during your rookie season (2013-2014) you told teammates "I'm going to be in Milwaukee 20 years!" Do you stand by that?

Oh yeah. I want to be here. There are not a lot of players that have [spent there entire career with one team]. Kobe [Bryant], Tim Duncan and Dirk [Nowitzki]. I want to be one of them. I think I can do it. But I want to make this team great. I do not want to be here just to be here. I want us to win a championship. That’s my goal. As I said, I’m really stubborn, I'm really competitive. When I set goals, I achieve goals. Hopefully the front office can make the right moves, and bring the great players around me, Khris [Middleton], and Jabari [Parker]. And we can make this run for many years to come in Milwaukee.

Does seeing the criticism Durant faced when he left Oklahoma City make you want to double down on Milwaukee?

I did not see that and say to myself that 'I do not want to do that.' There is a reason in every move that an athlete makes. Durant was in OKC [for eight years, plus his rookie year when the franchise played in Seattle], they went once to the finals. But I think maybe they didn’t put the right people around him to win the championship. His goal was to win the championship, so he went to Golden State and won the championship. That’s his decision. I feel like I can win the championship here. If eventually my goal—winning a championship here—is not on the map, then you’ve got to make the right decision to win the championship, right? But if me and the front office and the people in he organization are on the same page, we can bring the party to Milwaukee.

What have you learned about leadership in your four years in the NBA?

The first thing I’ve learned is that it’s hard to be a leader. When you’re young, it’s hard to lead people that are older than you. When I was 20, [Bucks coach] Jason Kidd told me you've got to lead this team. Be more talkative in practice, be more vocal at the games. It was hard. I was 20 years old. I had to lead people next to me who were 40 years old.

You've got to lead by example. I cannot tell them to do something on the court that I wouldn't do on the court. So I've got to be the first one here [for practice]. It’s in me since I was a little kid. I always had to be there for my family. I think that helped me a lot to adjust to the NBA, too.

In early 2016, during your third year, Jason Kidd made you the team's point guard. Most NBA point guards aren't 6'11" guys with scant pro experience. What was that adjustment like?

At first, it was kind of intimidating. Because it wasn’t a position I was really comfortable at. My rookie year, my sophomore year, I was more on the wings, more in the corners. I was just waiting for my time, waiting for the ball. But being the point guard you’ve got to have the ball. You’ve got to put your team into the right spot, you’ve got to know the plays that are going on. Sometimes when you’re in the corners and you're on the wings, you can almost avoid a mistake because you don’t have the ball.

But thank God I had Jason Kidd, I had my coaching staff, I had my teammates that pushed me forward, pushed me to get better. It was kind of an easy adjustment. I was more talkative. I was putting my team in he right spot more. I think that kind of helped me grow my game.

Who are some of the leaders you emulate?

Magic Johnson. I think he's done great things on the court, as a leader, and off the court, as a businessman. LeBron James, the things he does on the court, they're unbelievable. There are people who I haven’t studied so much, but I admire. Like Muhammad Ali, for example. I remember, when I was young, my dad told me about Nelson Mandela. He sacrificed so many things for his people. There are people in life, that come on this earth, just to sacrifice their own good for other people.

What's the biggest struggle you've had to overcome to get where you are?

For me and my family, it was kind of a daily struggle. We had to hustle every day to provide a plate of food on our table. I think one of the biggest struggles I had to overcome was when my mother was sick. I was 17. I was kind of young, we were living in bad conditions. My mom was one of the leaders in our family, who made sure we went to school. She did everything for us.

So when she went down, someone had to take that step [up]. I think did it. I had to provide for my family. I had to make sure my little brothers would be on time in school. I had to make sure I was on time for practice.

I was on OK student. But my main focus was basketball. That was wrong. But I gave 100%. I told my mom I'm going to make it in basketball. I’m going to make sure that we have a better life. I'm going to make it for you so you can be better, and enjoy life more.

She's great now. She's smiling now, she's enjoying life. She's been a colleague right next to me.

It's 2017. Before last season you signed a four-year, $100 million contract extension. How long ago were you still selling stuff on the street in Athens to make ends meet? It wasn't all that long ago, right?

2012. Five years ago. I was just helping my mom, my dad. (Note: Antetokounmpo's father, Charles, died suddenly of a heart attack on Sept. 29th, after this interview was conducted. Charles was 54.) It was kind of hard back then. My parents were illegal. It was kind of hard back then for my dad to work, and to provide for us because at any moment, a cop could stop my parents and deport them. So it was easier for my mom to work. They could show a little bit more pity on my mom when they saw her on the street.

But back then I used to do whatever I could. We used to sell watches, we used to sell glasses, we used to sell toys, clothes. It was fun. If I could do back and relive those moments, if I could press a switch and go back I definitely would. It was hard, but now when you look back, those were fun days man. We're in a car, we would take trips. Me and my brothers all together, my dad sometimes. We were living family moments, and hustling and struggling together, as a family. That’s why we were so close as brothers.

But yes, I used to sell stuff until 2012. Then I focused on basketball for a year. Then 2013 I got drafted. Then in 2014 my older brother [Thanasis] got drafted [by the New York Knicks. He currently plays professionally in Greece].

Were you a good salesman?

I was the best. You can ask my mom, ask my brothers. Second was Thanasis or my mom. I just had the positive energy, the positive vibe. I knew how to make people buy stuff from me.

Was there ever a low moment? Where you thought 'we might not make it. We might not eat tomorrow.'

There were a lot of moments like that. For example, if we didn’t sell stuff at night or during the day, you go back home and you don’t have money. So you’re like, 'what am I going to do?' You can go ask for money, but we didn’t have a lot of friends. My parents couldn't have friends because they were illegal. Their friends could tell the cops, 'come get them.'

So even now that [my parents] are in Milwaukee, it’s tough for them to have friends. Because for 25 years, they’ve lived without having friends. It's tough to trust somebody.

We didn’t have the same opportunities as the other kids. I didn't have a Greek passport until I was 18. We didn’t have the opportunity to be who we were destined to be, because we didn’t have the piece of paper.

You've said that your parents lived in fear. Did you feel that fear?

Yes. It’s tough. The reason I was afraid was because they’re going to deport my parents. The next day, I could wake up and my parents could be in a different country. They couldn't deport me because I didn't have a passport. Deport me to go where? Back to Nigeria? You couldn’t know where I’m from. I was born in Greece, I had a birth certificate. They couldn't deport me. But they could deport my parents. So we were afraid as kids that one day we could wake up without our parents. That was one of the toughest feelings for us growing up as kids.

Your parents have had trouble trusting people. Is trusting people something you've had to learn to do?

Sure. Growing up having parents like mine, I think without them wanting to, it goes to the kids too. When I see my parents having trouble trusting people, growing up I’m going to having trouble trusting people too. But it was kind of easier for me because I went to school. So I was associated with a lot of kids, I had a lot of friends.

But it’s kind of hard. I can be having a conversation with a guy I just met, and my mom can call me and be like 'Where are you?' I'm like, 'I’m having dinner with the guy I just met, we’re talking about this.' She tells me, 'make sure you ask this question, make sure you give me his number or his name so I can google him and make sure I know who he is.' Stuff like that. So she still has that trust issue. I think it’s getting better and better and better since we moved to the States. But for me, it's kind of easy to now trust people.

There are undocumented immigrants here in the United States who are living in similar circumstances as you and your family did in Greece. Recent government actions could force them to leave. What's your reaction?

I haven’t followed it. It's been a busy summer, and I've tried to stay more focused on basketball. But the thing that I have to say: people that were in the same situation as me, the most important thing is they've got to give them an opportunity. For me, that I'm sitting in this seat today, that I'm able to talk to TIME magazine, to a lot of people in the world, is because someone gave me an opportunity. There are a lot of people, a lot of Mexican people that people are talking about right now, they just need an opportunity to become great in life.

So I don't want to talk too much about that subject, because I haven’t followed it enough yet to know a lot about the subject. But the most important thing is to give the person next to you the opportunity to become great in life, to become something better.

What's your advice to someone living in the United States—or anywhere in the world, really—as an undocumented immigrant?

You’ve got to have patience. As a family we were patient, we were hungry for the opportunity. We did whatever it took for years. So when it comes, you’ve got to grab it.

How do you overcome the worry that comes with being undocumented? What's your advice to someone who might be scared?

You’ve got to be mentally tough. My parents would always tell us, 'things are going to be all right. Believe in God, things are going to be all right eventually. We are blessed. We are blessed just being in this situation.' Have patience, believe, and have patience.

What issue outside of basketball do you most care about?

As I grow older and become more mature, I think I’m going to learn about a lot of different causes. Maybe go to the Middle East, Africa, Greece, build schools. One thing for sure, before I leave this earth, I'm going to help people have a better future.

Do you remember the first time you heard the 'Greek Freak' nickname?

I think my rookie year. I do not know who came up with it. But I think it’s kind of an awesome nickname. I like it.

Why?

First of all, Greek: I always represent my country. And freak: it's an athlete who does freaky stuff on the court. That’s kind of what I do.

Besides yourself, who do you think is the biggest freak in the NBA?

LeBron James. The things he does, the veteran leadership he brings to the team, how big he is, how quick, how strong. And at the end of the day, how smart he is. He can put his team in the right spots, make the right decision. He is one of my role models.

Is he the best player in the NBA?

Definitely he's the best player in the NBA. For a few more years to come. There are going to be guys in the league that are going to try and take his spot. I think there are already guys in the league who are trying to take his spot. He’s grabbing his spot so tight, that he’s not letting it go. But I think a lot of players are getting better. Even myself. And hopefully one day we can get that spot from him.

What part of your game do you think has to improve the most?

There’s a lot of things I still have to improve on. I’m talking more with my teammates, talking more on the floor. Defensively we've got to talk more. You've got to make sure that guys on the perimeter know that you're behind them, and have their back. My shooting is getting better and better and better. Building my mentality. You have to be a killer out there. I think that’s the most important thing. When you step on that floor, act like it’s your last game.

To help you learn English when you came to the U.S., you watched Coming to America, the classic Eddie Murphy comedy, over and over. What's your favorite line?

(High voice) 'Sexual chocolate!'

Can you comment on accepting the 'Mamba challenge' from Kobe Bryant?

I saw Kobe on twitter was giving out challenges. I just tweeted back, I was like 'I’m still waiting for my challenge.' He gave me the MVP challenge. Win the MVP. That’s one of my goals. You’ve got to make the team better. I know that I’m going to be one of the players that hopefully dominates the game. But I’ve got to still make sure that my team wins, that my teammates get better. It’s a tough challenge. I’ve set that goal since the last game against Toronto last year, at the playoffs. I want to be the MVP this year.

After a wild offseason, there's lots of anticipation for this year. And given the huge leap you made last year, going from a solid player with tantalizing potential to All-Star game starter, expectations are high for you too. Do you have any message for the fans particularly excited to watch you play this year?

It's going to be a fun season. We’re going to make sure we put Milwaukee on the map.

Kevin Durant can't beat the buzzer, as the Rockets come back to stun the Warriors

The Golden State Warriors kicked off the 2017-18 NBA season with a huge celebration of their 2017 NBA championship, and eager to start their pursuit of a third title in four years. Come the end of opening night, though, it’d be the Houston Rockets celebrating, thanks to the slimmest of margins and the length of Kevin Durant’s fingertips.

Kevin Durant can't beat the buzzer, as the Rockets come back to stun the Warriors

The Golden State Warriors kicked off the 2017-18 NBA season with a huge celebration of their 2017 NBA championship, and eager to start their pursuit of a third title in four years. Come the end of opening night, though, it’d be the Houston Rockets celebrating, thanks to the slimmest of margins and the length of Kevin Durant’s fingertips.

Five Wild Overreactions to NBA Opening Night

Editor's note: The Crossover is known for its nuanced analysis and thoughtful columns about NBA basketball. This is not one of those columns.

What a wild opening night in the NBA. Kevin Durant folded in the clutch faster than he could apologize for roasting his ex-team on Twitter. Kyrie Irving looked like the Kyrie Irving to Jaylen Brown’s LeBron James. And Nick Young and Eric Gordon put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat of the MVP race. Let’s discuss some other iron-clad truths after the season’s first two games.

The Warriors need to unleash JaVale

The Warriors are in last place in the West, and they have only themselves to blame. Without the distraction of having Draymond Green on the court in the fourth quarter, Golden State should have cruised to a win over the Rockets. But Steve Kerr chose to get cute, and left Javale McGee on the bench even while his team was bleeding points. There was no reason for McGee to play the same number of minutes as Thicc Klay Thompson. Mike Brown would have had JaVale in the game at the very least for offense-defense switches down the stretch. Instead, Ryan Anderson was allowed to roam free to the tune of three offensive rebounds.

It was shocking that McGee didn’t play in the wake of injuries to Green and Andre Iguodala. The Warriors were exposed as a thin team on Tuesday. When Golden State is reduced to playing with only three Hall-of-Famers at a time, the Dubs absolutely crumble under the pressure.

Bottom line: When the game is hanging in the balance, you want a champion on the court. McGee should have been out there.

?

Houston needs to tighten up

With Clint Capela playing a ghastly 18 minutes Tuesday night, Mike D’Antoni basically employed a seven-and-a-half man rotation against the Warriors. That’s about two-and-a-half players too many. I’m sorry, but why are NBA players posting selfies of them working out in the gym all summer if they don't have the conditioning needed to play a full 48? Did Houston really need those Chris Paul minutes last night? What did Capela even do other than some cool dunks and iffy defense? These guys will never be more fresh than for the first game of the season.

Players can rest during the extra week the NBA has graciously given them to complete the 82-game schedule. There are more than enough commercial breaks for guys to stay fresh for an entire game. Heck, with those new jersey sponsors, the entire game is basically one big commercial break now.

D’Antoni is giving his team too much trust. If he’s going to play small-ball lineups that look like something your 12-year-old sibling would dream up in a game of NBA 2K18, then D’Antoni may as well turn fatigue off and play his best five the whole way.

Nick Young has it figured out

Has Paul George ever come off the bench and given his team 23 points on 6 of 7 shooting from three? What about Carmelo Anthony? While everyone was playing checkers this offseason, the Warriors were playing a game that is still light years away from being invented. Young is obviously the most important free-agent signing of the summer. While Irving is too busy playing buddy-buddy with his old teammates, Young looks ready to take Zaza Pachulia’s spot in the starting lineup, hitting open threes and exposing his tongue with the same joie de vivre as a Miami Dolphins offensive line coach. While Irving airballed a potential game-tying shot, Young watched his team lose from the bench, resting so he could drop another 20 in Golden State’s next game. Remember Young’s unselfishness when guys like Durant, George, Anthony and Irving chuck up end-of-game misses this year. They could stand to learn a thing or two from Swaggy P.

LeBron is losing a step

When we last saw LeBron James, he had just become the first player to average a triple double for an entire NBA Finals. But the NBA is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and the James we saw Tuesday is clearly a cut below the player we saw in the 2017 Finals. James finished with 29-16-9 against the Celtics, which is clearly not a triple double. It’s those kind of statlines that cost James Harden an MVP award last season. Are the minutes finally catching up to James? He’s played over 50,000 of them now, and it’s only going to get harder and harder for him to will himself to that last assist he needs for a triple double every night.

With James, it’s difficult to know if this is the new reality or if it’s just hard for him to move at full speed when Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade are on the court at the same time. Kendrick Perkins won’t be there to save him if this is the year everything goes south.

?

Irving won the Cavs-Celtics trade

Aside from some competition from Brown, Irving got a chance to shine with the Celtics on Tuesday. When else have you ever seen Irving with the ball in his hands on the right wing with an opportunity to shoot a three and decide the game? These are the kind of scenarios Irving has been dreaming about his whole life, and finally, in Game 1 of the regular season, Irving found himself as the man with a chance to take the big shot. That’s why you play in the NBA. You want to be the player who has a chance to have the ball in their hands down the stretch of an important game. Few games are more important than your first game against the team you went to three straight Finals with. It’s early in the season, sure, but Irving’s shift to the Celtics is already paying off in ways he could have never imagined.

Five Wild Overreactions to NBA Opening Night

Editor's note: The Crossover is known for its nuanced analysis and thoughtful columns about NBA basketball. This is not one of those columns.

What a wild opening night in the NBA. Kevin Durant folded in the clutch faster than he could apologize for roasting his ex-team on Twitter. Kyrie Irving looked like the Kyrie Irving to Jaylen Brown’s LeBron James. And Nick Young and Eric Gordon put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat of the MVP race. Let’s discuss some other iron-clad truths after the season’s first two games.

The Warriors need to unleash JaVale

The Warriors are in last place in the West, and they have only themselves to blame. Without the distraction of having Draymond Green on the court in the fourth quarter, Golden State should have cruised to a win over the Rockets. But Steve Kerr chose to get cute, and left Javale McGee on the bench even while his team was bleeding points. There was no reason for McGee to play the same number of minutes as Thicc Klay Thompson. Mike Brown would have had JaVale in the game at the very least for offense-defense switches down the stretch. Instead, Ryan Anderson was allowed to roam free to the tune of three offensive rebounds.

It was shocking that McGee didn’t play in the wake of injuries to Green and Andre Iguodala. The Warriors were exposed as a thin team on Tuesday. When Golden State is reduced to playing with only three Hall-of-Famers at a time, the Dubs absolutely crumble under the pressure.

Bottom line: When the game is hanging in the balance, you want a champion on the court. McGee should have been out there.

?

Houston needs to tighten up

With Clint Capela playing a ghastly 18 minutes Tuesday night, Mike D’Antoni basically employed a seven-and-a-half man rotation against the Warriors. That’s about two-and-a-half players too many. I’m sorry, but why are NBA players posting selfies of them working out in the gym all summer if they don't have the conditioning needed to play a full 48? Did Houston really need those Chris Paul minutes last night? What did Capela even do other than some cool dunks and iffy defense? These guys will never be more fresh than for the first game of the season.

Players can rest during the extra week the NBA has graciously given them to complete the 82-game schedule. There are more than enough commercial breaks for guys to stay fresh for an entire game. Heck, with those new jersey sponsors, the entire game is basically one big commercial break now.

D’Antoni is giving his team too much trust. If he’s going to play small-ball lineups that look like something your 12-year-old sibling would dream up in a game of NBA 2K18, then D’Antoni may as well turn fatigue off and play his best five the whole way.

Nick Young has it figured out

Has Paul George ever come off the bench and given his team 23 points on 6 of 7 shooting from three? What about Carmelo Anthony? While everyone was playing checkers this offseason, the Warriors were playing a game that is still light years away from being invented. Young is obviously the most important free-agent signing of the summer. While Irving is too busy playing buddy-buddy with his old teammates, Young looks ready to take Zaza Pachulia’s spot in the starting lineup, hitting open threes and exposing his tongue with the same joie de vivre as a Miami Dolphins offensive line coach. While Irving airballed a potential game-tying shot, Young watched his team lose from the bench, resting so he could drop another 20 in Golden State’s next game. Remember Young’s unselfishness when guys like Durant, George, Anthony and Irving chuck up end-of-game misses this year. They could stand to learn a thing or two from Swaggy P.

LeBron is losing a step

When we last saw LeBron James, he had just become the first player to average a triple double for an entire NBA Finals. But the NBA is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and the James we saw Tuesday is clearly a cut below the player we saw in the 2017 Finals. James finished with 29-16-9 against the Celtics, which is clearly not a triple double. It’s those kind of statlines that cost James Harden an MVP award last season. Are the minutes finally catching up to James? He’s played over 50,000 of them now, and it’s only going to get harder and harder for him to will himself to that last assist he needs for a triple double every night.

With James, it’s difficult to know if this is the new reality or if it’s just hard for him to move at full speed when Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade are on the court at the same time. Kendrick Perkins won’t be there to save him if this is the year everything goes south.

?

Irving won the Cavs-Celtics trade

Aside from some competition from Brown, Irving got a chance to shine with the Celtics on Tuesday. When else have you ever seen Irving with the ball in his hands on the right wing with an opportunity to shoot a three and decide the game? These are the kind of scenarios Irving has been dreaming about his whole life, and finally, in Game 1 of the regular season, Irving found himself as the man with a chance to take the big shot. That’s why you play in the NBA. You want to be the player who has a chance to have the ball in their hands down the stretch of an important game. Few games are more important than your first game against the team you went to three straight Finals with. It’s early in the season, sure, but Irving’s shift to the Celtics is already paying off in ways he could have never imagined.

Durant's game-winning shot ruled out

Kevin Durant let the ball go just too late.

From left, Golden State Warriors' Shaun Livingston, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant wait for their NBA championship rings during a ring ceremony prior to the basketball game against the Houston Rockets Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, left, is presented his NBA championship ring by Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob, center, and Peter Guber during a ring ceremony prior to the basketball game against the Houston Rockets Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, right, shoots over Houston Rockets' Clint Capela (15) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater turned out to have come to late to win the NBA game against Houston.

Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater turned out to have come to late to win the NBA game against Houston.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater turned out to have come to late to win the NBA game against Houston

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Golden State Warriors' season starts with a loss as Kevin Durant's buzzer-beater didn't beat the buzzer

Kevin Durant’s game winner waived off, he didn’t get shot off in time

It was reviewed and the right call was made.

Kevin Durant’s game winner waived off, he didn’t get shot off in time

It was reviewed and the right call was made.

From left, Golden State Warriors David West, Kevin Durant, Patrick McCaw, and Klay Thompson look up at a replay of the final play of the game against the Houston Rockets during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. Rockets won 122-121. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Rockets Rally to Spoil Defending Champion Warriors Return

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant’s baseline jumper swished through the net just barely too late, and the Houston Rockets rallied in the fourth to beat Golden State 122-121 Tuesday on the night the Warriors received their championship rings.

The Warriors had one last chance with 10.6 seconds left and Durant came up with the ball after Stephen Curry had missed. Durant and the Warriors thought they’d won and confetti began to fall when the two remaining officials—the third got hurt in the fourth quarter—reviewed the play and said Durant’s shot was after the buzzer.

Trevor Ariza’s 3-pointer with 2:09 remaining pulled Houston within 119-118 then Patrick McCaw hit a baseline jumper immediately after Golden State’s timeout. James Harden made a layup and PJ Tucker hit two free throws with 44.1 to make it 122-121.

Nick Young came off the bench to hit six 3-pointers and score 23 points in a brilliant Warriors debut, Curry scored 22 points and Durant had 20 after a slow start. Klay Thompson added 16 points.

Chris Paul had four points on 2-for-9 shooting in his Rockets debut, while Harden scored 27 points and Eric Gordon 24 for the Rockets. Houston opened the fourth with a 9-0 run to get back in it.

The Warriors found their rhythm early but couldn’t close it out after an abbreviated preseason in terms of practice time given their recent trip to China for a pair of games against Minnesota.

Still, this opener was a far cry for the forgettable 129-100 defeat at home to San Antonio in Durant’s Warriors debut a year ago when Golden State came off a record 73-win season and runner-up finish to Cleveland in the 2016 Finals.

“I just remember the last game of the season we played,” Durant said of the Game 5 Finals clincher in June.

Young found his stroke right away, hitting his first four 3s and five shots overall. It’s exactly what the Warriors want him to do: shoot every time he has a good look. His six 3-pointers set a franchise record for anyone in their Warriors debut and also in a season opener.

Durant had one spectacular sequence in the third when he blocked Anderson’s shot on one end then converted a three-point play moments later on the other, slapping hands with a lucky boy fan on the baseline.

Houston acquired Paul from the Clippers to give them a 1-2 backcourt punch to try to gain ground on Golden State in the Western Conference.

Coach Steve Kerr planned to pay extra attention as veterans Durant, Zaza Pachulia and David West each received a championship ring for the first time in their careers.

“Basketball accomplishments to me now are just what they are,” Durant said after morning shootaround. “I can kind of separate the two now. I feel like it’s more so just cool as hell more than anything. It’s like getting a prize possession that you’re just really excited about versus getting something that’s going to change your life. ... I’ll be more so just really giddy and happy more so than emotional. I won’t be a mess.”

Pachulia had a new one to share his title with—5-week-old daughter, Nutsa joined her mom and three older siblings, two brothers and a sister.

“I’ve heard some actors, actresses, when they get some kind of award, say without the family. I always think, ‘What exactly my family is doing?’ I feel it now, all the support and help.”

Kerr took part in the 2015 ring ceremony, but didn’t coach as he was sidelined the initial 43 games following complications from back surgery.

Rockets shock Warriors, 122-121, in season opener

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Rockets shocking the Warriors, 122-121, as Kevin Durant's game-winning buzzer beater was not counted, the Celtics losing to the Cavaliers in the NBA opener, 102-99 with Gordon Hayward suffering a gruesome injury, the Yankees tying up the ALCS at two games apiece with a 6-4 win over the Astros.

Rockets shock Warriors, 122-121, in season opener

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Rockets shocking the Warriors, 122-121, as Kevin Durant's game-winning buzzer beater was not counted, the Celtics losing to the Cavaliers in the NBA opener, 102-99 with Gordon Hayward suffering a gruesome injury, the Yankees tying up the ALCS at two games apiece with a 6-4 win over the Astros.

Rockets shock Warriors, 122-121, in season opener

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Rockets shocking the Warriors, 122-121, as Kevin Durant's game-winning buzzer beater was not counted, the Celtics losing to the Cavaliers in the NBA opener, 102-99 with Gordon Hayward suffering a gruesome injury, the Yankees tying up the ALCS at two games apiece with a 6-4 win over the Astros.

Rockets shock Warriors, 122-121, in season opener

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Rockets shocking the Warriors, 122-121, as Kevin Durant's game-winning buzzer beater was not counted, the Celtics losing to the Cavaliers in the NBA opener, 102-99 with Gordon Hayward suffering a gruesome injury, the Yankees tying up the ALCS at two games apiece with a 6-4 win over the Astros.

Rockets shock Warriors, 122-121, in season opener

Yahoo Sports Minute recaps top stories including the Rockets shocking the Warriors, 122-121, as Kevin Durant's game-winning buzzer beater was not counted, the Celtics losing to the Cavaliers in the NBA opener, 102-99 with Gordon Hayward suffering a gruesome injury, the Yankees tying up the ALCS at two games apiece with a 6-4 win over the Astros.

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant, right, drives the ball against Houston Rockets' James Harden during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. The Rockets won 122-121. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Kevin Durant hit a shot at the buzzer to beat the Rockets but it didn't count

Kevin Durant hit a shot at the buzzer to beat the Rockets but it didn't count

Kevin Durant hit a shot at the buzzer to beat the Rockets but it didn't count

Kevin Durant hit a shot at the buzzer to beat the Rockets but it didn't count

Houston Rockets' Trevor Ariza, right, looks to shoot against Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant stretches prior to the basketball game against the Houston Rockets Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

There Are Lookalikes, and Then There's This Klay Thompson Doppleganger

Beating the Warriors is tough enough as is. The Dubs come at you with two of the best shooters in basketball history in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, a 6'10" scoring machine in Kevin Durant and arguably the best defender in the league in Draymond Green.

Now, Golden State has added a literal clone of Klay Thompson, and the Warriors might just go 82-0 this season.

I mean, just look at this guy, who was sitting courtisde during the Warriors' season opener against the Rockets.

He's got the no-sideburns haircut and goatee down, and he showed up to Oracle Arena in a full Warriors uniform. That's dedication.

With some high-level investigative work that involved one or more Google searches, I have discovered the identity of this fake Klay Thompson; he's a Youtuber who goes by the name BigDawsVlogs, and he showed up to Game 5 of last year's Finals in the Klay costume.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and GOOD LORD, you literally are Klay Thompson.

Gordon Hayward's Injury Casts Dark Cloud Over NBA Opening Night

Much of the excitement for the NBA built up over an incredible summer was zapped less than six minutes into the first game of the season, as Gordon Hayward dislocated his ankle and fractured his tibia in one of the more gruesome injuries in recent memory. It was a shocking—and sickening—turn of events, as the Celtics’ best laid plans were ruined before the season’s first commercial break.

Hayward’s injury was a stark reminder of the fragility of...all of this. The NBA has been lucky that most of its best players have avoided major injuries. Steph Curry has overcome his ankle issues. Kevin Durant survived a foot scare. LeBron James has been a tank. Hayward’s injury was perfectly random, the one out of a billion happenstance on a play Hayward has likely run countless times in his life.

The injury took away what was supposed to be a revenge-filled opening game. The energy in the building and on the court was mostly gone after the injury. The Cavs just barely held on for the win, needing big plays from James down the stretch to escape with a 102–99 victory.

The injury leaves the Celtics in an uncomfortable position. Do they forge ahead with the current roster, which could result in a lost season in a year the team was supposed to contend for a title? Do they make a big move, hoping to remain in contention and make sure Kyrie Irving wants to remain for the long haul? It’s unfortunate on a night Hayward suffered a traumatic injury that these questions have to be asked, but the NBA won’t allow the Celtics to sit idle.

If there was one silver lining from Tuesday, it was the way the Celtics competed down the stretch. Marcus Smart provided his usual spark. Jayson Tatum looked like he was ready for the moment. Jaylen Brown picked up Hayward’s scoring slack and contributed 25 points. Boston looked far from left for dead, and Irving almost provided a poetic end to regulation with a three over LeBron that fell short of the rim.

?

Still, Hayward’s injury casts a pall not only on what was meant to be an explosive opening night, but also a regular season that was already facing concerns about competitiveness in the Eastern Conference. Boston proved for at least one night it can compete with Cleveland, but the C’s outlook for the season remains cloudy at best.

The Cavs, by the way, looked like far from a finished product in Game 1. Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose had moments both good and bad. Kyle Korver looked borderline unplayable. But James was his spectacular self, picking up right where he left off in the 2017 Finals, nearly posting a triple double in his first game in Year 15.

Unfortunately, if there’s one image most people will remember from the 2017–18’s first game, it will be Hayward lying in pain on the floor, his leg looking more like a video game glitch than something that can occur in nature. If you need something more palatable to remember, however, Irving and James shared a nice moment immediately after the end of the game. The two shared what at that point seemed like an improbable embrace, perhaps colored by what they had both witnessed earlier in the night.

The NBA will move on. Hayward will eventually return to the court. James and Irving will probably return to rival status the next time they share the floor. And sooner rather than later, the excitement for a highly anticipated season will return as well.

Gordon Hayward's Injury Casts Dark Cloud Over NBA Opening Night

Much of the excitement for the NBA built up over an incredible summer was zapped less than six minutes into the first game of the season, as Gordon Hayward dislocated his ankle and fractured his tibia in one of the more gruesome injuries in recent memory. It was a shocking—and sickening—turn of events, as the Celtics’ best laid plans were ruined before the season’s first commercial break.

Hayward’s injury was a stark reminder of the fragility of...all of this. The NBA has been lucky that most of its best players have avoided major injuries. Steph Curry has overcome his ankle issues. Kevin Durant survived a foot scare. LeBron James has been a tank. Hayward’s injury was perfectly random, the one out of a billion happenstance on a play Hayward has likely run countless times in his life.

The injury took away what was supposed to be a revenge-filled opening game. The energy in the building and on the court was mostly gone after the injury. The Cavs just barely held on for the win, needing big plays from James down the stretch to escape with a 102–99 victory.

The injury leaves the Celtics in an uncomfortable position. Do they forge ahead with the current roster, which could result in a lost season in a year the team was supposed to contend for a title? Do they make a big move, hoping to remain in contention and make sure Kyrie Irving wants to remain for the long haul? It’s unfortunate on a night Hayward suffered a traumatic injury that these questions have to be asked, but the NBA won’t allow the Celtics to sit idle.

If there was one silver lining from Tuesday, it was the way the Celtics competed down the stretch. Marcus Smart provided his usual spark. Jayson Tatum looked like he was ready for the moment. Jaylen Brown picked up Hayward’s scoring slack and contributed 25 points. Boston looked far from left for dead, and Irving almost provided a poetic end to regulation with a three over LeBron that fell short of the rim.

?

Still, Hayward’s injury casts a pall not only on what was meant to be an explosive opening night, but also a regular season that was already facing concerns about competitiveness in the Eastern Conference. Boston proved for at least one night it can compete with Cleveland, but the C’s outlook for the season remains cloudy at best.

The Cavs, by the way, looked like far from a finished product in Game 1. Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose had moments both good and bad. Kyle Korver looked borderline unplayable. But James was his spectacular self, picking up right where he left off in the 2017 Finals, nearly posting a triple double in his first game in Year 15.

Unfortunately, if there’s one image most people will remember from the 2017–18’s first game, it will be Hayward lying in pain on the floor, his leg looking more like a video game glitch than something that can occur in nature. If you need something more palatable to remember, however, Irving and James shared a nice moment immediately after the end of the game. The two shared what at that point seemed like an improbable embrace, perhaps colored by what they had both witnessed earlier in the night.

The NBA will move on. Hayward will eventually return to the court. James and Irving will probably return to rival status the next time they share the floor. And sooner rather than later, the excitement for a highly anticipated season will return as well.

The Thunder gave Kevin Durant's old number to an undrafted rookie

The Thunder gave Kevin Durant's old number to an undrafted rookie

Thunder give Kevin Durant's old number to P.J. Dozier

Thunder give Kevin Durant's old number to P.J. Dozier

Thunder give Kevin Durant's old number to P.J. Dozier

Thunder give Kevin Durant's old number to P.J. Dozier

Thunder give Kevin Durant's old number to P.J. Dozier

Undrafted rookie P.J. Dozier will be the first player to wear No. 35 since Kevin Durant, who wore the number for nine seasons with OKC.

The Big Baller Brand Emojis Are Here and They Are Just as Awesome as You Would Expect

Finally, there are emojis for the Big Ballers.

Just in time for the start of the NBA season, the brand you love to hate is back with its next big thing: Big Baller Brand Emojis.

In what is either a stroke of genius or simply another ridiculous thing done by the Ball family, Big Baller Brand has teamed with Sportsmanias and released an app that allows you to share animated gifs of your favorite basketball family.

That's right.

For everybody who didn't have enough LaVar Ball in their life already, you can now download an animated LaVar Ball to help you properly communicate with your friends, family and coworkers.

The Thunder Gave Kevin Durant's Number to an Undrafted Rookie

Dancing Lonzo. Shirtless LaVar. LaMelo holding up a sign to recognize the 92 points he dropped in a game last season. All of emojis you need to convey your status as a Big Baller are now available for just $1.99.

Based on the screenshots available through the iTunes App Store, it seems like LiAngelo will not be featured, most likely due to his amateur status since he is now at UCLA.

But when you have the combination of Lonzo, LaMelo and LaVar, you can't really complain.