Issue 142: Hey, How ‘Bout That Time Kevin Durant Ruined the NBA?

Kevin Durant is a very good basketball player. He’s won two championships, two Finals MVP awards, one regular-season MVP, and has made nine All-NBA teams.

He’s led the league in scoring four times and is on pace to do it again this year.

He literally just scored 51 points LAST NIGHT—the most in an NBA game this season.

He also may be part-tarantula, which is cool.

But if you ask a certain subsection of basketball fans, Kevin Durant ruined the NBA.

Here’s why: on July 5, 2016, Kevin Durant announced he was signing with the Golden State Warriors. That would normally be a fine decision, but there’s some trickery we have to navigate.

During the 2015-16 regular season, the Warriors won 73 games. That’s more than any team in NBA history.

At the time, Durant was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and his team was up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals against those very same Warriors.

The Thunder had them on the ropes! 

Then, the Warriors pulled off an improbable comeback before losing in the NBA Finals. Ironically, the Warriors were also up 3-1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in those NBA Finals, then lost. It was bedlam, I tell you. Bedlam!

Durant left the Thunder that summer to join the Warriors. It was a literal case of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Now, to be clear, Durant was a top-five player in the league at that time (and, well…still is today). He was joining a team that had won a championship just one year earlier and was coming off the most impressive regular season ever.

Fans and pundits alike cried “foul!” and “betrayal!” and whatever other angry things you like to yell when you feel you’ve been wronged.

Nobody wanted to admit that, if given the chance to take an easier path in their career, they’d jump on it like a loose ball.

Plus, Durant could more easily access Silicon Valley and he’s since invested in more than a dozen businesses. Gotta spend money to make money, kids.

The Warriors won the championship in 2017 and 2018, and Durant was the MVP of the Finals both years.

But this story took a fantastic twist during the 2019 NBA playoffs.

During Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, Durant strained his calf. At first, the injury was played off as relatively minor.

Perhaps no one in the media has ever suffered a charley horse whilst stretching in bed in the morning, but my goodness, does that hurt. I imagine a strained calf is about a thousand times worse.

Durant would probably agree with you, because he only played 12 more minutes during the playoffs (I’ll get to that shortly). When Durant got hurt, the Warriors proceeded to win that game, and then the next five in a row.

Now, they still had three All-Stars on their team in the form of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. But losing a player of Durant’s caliber should affect your performance, you would think.

Instead, the Warriors returned to their free-wheeling, push the pace, shoot all the three-pointers barrage they had perfected before Durant arrived.

I’m not the only one who exclaimed out loud, “Boy, the Warriors sure are a lot more fun to watch without Kevin Durant!”

Others took it a step further and said they were a better team without Durant. That’s nonsense, but at the same time, what a chaotic thing to discuss!

Then the 2019 NBA Finals happened and Durant missed the first four games. The Warriors quickly lost three of those four, and Durant was like, “I’m going to come back for Game 5” after the doctors said he was okay to play.

Of course, missing more than a month of professional basketball means your body is not used to the grueling pace of play, and Durant ended up rupturing his Achilles after only 12 minutes of playing.

I wouldn’t wish an Achilles tear on anyone. Yet because the world is a cruel place, some people cheered Durant’s injury.

Those are the same types of people that weave in and out of highway traffic without using their blinkers because they are inconsiderate jerks.

Anyway, that was Durant’s last game as a Warrior. He left the following summer to join the Brooklyn Nets, and despite basically missing a whole season with that injury, he came back and promptly scored with more force than an Olivia Rodrigo song.

In fact, he was one “big-ass foot” away from carrying the Nets to last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, where they probably would have advanced to the championship and won the whole thing. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

But hey, maybe this is the year we’ll find out where Brooklyn at.