ESNY

Kevin Durant announced that he is joining the Golden State Warriors, and his decision lived up to the hype.

Kevin Durant’s process in choosing his next team was — like his game — efficient and fast. He met with six teams in four days, making them come to him in the Hamptons. After more than a year of speculation in which Durant would only say that his decision was based on basketball, the day finally came.

What Durant did was hijack the Fourth of July via Twitter while we all waited for the announcement to come in The Player’s Tribune. Then the hammer dropped. Durant was leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder, a franchise which he helped build, and leapfrogging onto a budding dynasty in Golden State.

[graphiq id=”e01xY9ehwot” title=”Golden State Warriors Player Comparision” width=”600″ height=”800″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/e01xY9ehwot” link=”http://basketball-players.pointafter.com” link_text=”Golden State Warriors Player Comparision | PointAfter” ]

The basketball world was stunned, as an outpouring of criticism and defense of the immediately controversial decision was unleashed on social media. The link to his announcement was being accessed by so many people at once that it went down.

Reactions from NBA players and media came pouring in. Portland backcourt mates Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum commented on the obvious change in the NBA landscape.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Stephen A. Smith had two very different takes on the situation. Lowe, like many, seemed happy that it was finally all over and Smith really wanted some re-tweets.

What did you expect, it’s NBA free agency?

Free agency has taken on a life of its own with the “help” of social media and fans playing Twitter general manager. This season it was particularly outrageous with the ridiculous spending by nearly every team.

As average players received salaries beyond their wildest dreams, Durant patiently waited for his time in the sun. His team leaked out that he’d be making his decision on the Fourth of July, of all days. We fell in love with Durant because he was the superstar who didn’t care about playing in the small market. He was the nice guy.

Over the last few years things began to change. Durant started to lash out at the media, telling ESPN.com, “It is what it is, who cares about them. They don’t mean nothing, the critics. Their opinions, everybody has one, but we don’t really care about them. Every day we’re just going to keep grinding this thing out. We feel like we can compete with anybody.”

There were rumors that Nike was encouraging Durant to leave Oklahoma City for a bigger market as far back as 2014. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, that pressure hasn’t slowed from people inside of Durant’s inner circle.

When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to play with his buddies he was scorned by the media and fans. They called him a ringer chaser, took the easy way out, and had no respect for the fans who loved him. None of those same things can be said about Durant.

James’ decision was viewed by more than 10 million people live on ESPN. Durant chose a more low-key approach, reminiscent of James’ announcement in 2014 that he was returning to Cleveland to save the day.

Instead of making the announcement about himself, Durant chose to acknowledge how much Oklahoma City and the organization mean to him.

“I’m from Washington, D.C. originally, but Oklahoma City truly raised me. It taught me so much about family as well as what it means to be a man. There are no words to express what the organization and the community mean to me, and what they will represent in my life and in my heart forever. The memories and friendships are something that go far beyond the game. Those invaluable relationships are what made this deliberation so challenging.”

Durant continued, acknowledging his teammates and loyal fans.

“It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career.

I will miss Oklahoma City, and the role I have had in building this remarkable team. I will forever cherish the relationships within the organization — the friends and teammates that I went to war with on the court for nine years, and all the fans and people of the community. They have always had my back unconditionally, and I cannot be more grateful for what they have meant to my family and to me.”

Durant’s Thunder never got over that hump. There was always injuries, mediocre coaching, or in the most recent case the Warriors, standing in his way. Like James in 2010, Durant wants to win and he’s afraid that if he stays in his current situation it won’t happen.

Durant was part of something special in Oklahoma City for nine seasons. His team was fun to watch and easy to root for, but they were never champions. That’s what he wants and he’s going to the Warriors to become one.

Durant could’ve stayed in Oklahoma City and averaged 25 points per game for the rest of his career, but they don’t give him the best chance to win right now. There’s uncertainty surrounding Russell Westbrook‘s long-term status and if you can’t be em, join em.

LeBron famously said that going to Miami was “like college for other kids,” and “a learning experience” for him.

He won two championships in those four seasons so it’s easy for him to say that now. James had a tremendous amount of pressure when he went to Miami, as will Durant in Golden State. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. For now we’re still basking in the glory of Durant’s landmark decision.

The most hyped free agent since LeBron James circa 2010 was incredible. He kept us on the edge of our seats and made sure we’d all remember the ‘Summer of Durant.’

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Chip Murphy
I'm ESNY's Executive Editor for EliteSportsNY.com. I cover the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Email: chip.murphy@elitesportsny.com Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.