“I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach” these words, reluctantly uttered by LeBron James, would change the face of the National Basketball Association forever. It has been over seven years since The Decision aired live on ESPN. With this ultra-bombastic TV special, LeBron normalized the formation of superteams. He made them fashionable, for that matter!
The Miami Heat’s hegemony of the early 2010s was The Empire Strikes Back to the Big Three’s A New Hope. And in today’s NBA the sequels just keep on coming. The newest evil empire to coalesce - the Golden State Warriors, helmed by the superstar expatriate, Kevin Durant.
Sending their gaggle of representatives, which included the esteemed Kelly Olynyk in nondescript baggy garb, the Boston Celtics aggressively, yet futilely pursued this lanky unicorn. The C’s had no idea that where Kevin Durant would end up was preordained. He was destined to migrate from the drab shantytown of Oklahoma City to the opulent palaces of Golden State. This balance-shifting maneuver was Game of Thrones-like in it’s roguishness.
If You Can’t Beat Em’, Join Em’
Kevin Durant was roundly excoriated by the media, back in July of 2016 when his decision was announced. Even Paul Pierce, the unanimous leader of the precedent-setting Boston Big Three, had venomous and derisive criticism for Durant around this time. Pierce has taunted him, on multiple occasions and through mediums manifold, saying “if you can’t beat em’, join em’”.
Now Paul Pierce, of all people, should know something about the rewards of a superteam. Just like Kevin Durant and LeBron James after him, Pierce interminably waited for that ever-elusive NBA Title that never came and then succumbed to promises of an all-star collective. His motive was to win that token championship, which would vouchsafe him a first-ballot hall of fame bid.
This was exactly Kevin Durant’s motive for joining the Golden State Warriors, back in 2016. And he has now won his requisite title.
If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that superteams like these form and disband deciduously - they certainly don’t last forever. And where Durant has now secured his indelible “NBA Champion” merit badge, he has no further use for the Golden State Warriors. Thus Durant has a decision to make, or a reversal thereof.
In 2019, Kevin Durant will become an unrestricted free agent. He declined his 2017-18 player option, but will purportedly re-sign with the Golden State Warriors when the time comes. Settling for less than a maximum contract was Durant's pretense for declining the player option.
But given the vast wiggle room, is it possible that Kevin Durant will return to the Oklahoma City Thunder? His most outspoken critic, Paul Pierce, certainly thinks so.
Back in November, Kevin Durant said in a Bleacher Report interview “I am OKC. I’m still OKC. That blue is going to be in my blood forever.” After hearing these bold words, during an NBA Countdown telecast, Paul Pierce commented “He could do what LeBron did.” And wouldn’t that make so much sense?
Kevin Durant goes to Golden State for a few years. Wins an NBA Championship (or two). Affixes that shiny sequin onto his belt, amplifying the brilliance of his legacy. Then Durant returns to Oklahoma City, in an attempt to win a title for his hometown. The ugly metempsychosis of the NBA superteam would be complete and Kevin Durant’s dishonorable move would dissolve in the back of everyone’s mind. No harm, no foul.
It would perfectly mirror “what LeBron did”.
The Prodigal Son
The Miami Heat superteam won LeBron his requisite championships. After winning this underwhelming glory, he returned to his hometown of Cleveland and transformed it into Believeland. How’s his legacy looking nowadays?
If Kevin Durant wants to make the most cinematic story out of his career, he will eventually make his return back to OKC.
The potential homecoming would be unbelievably timely. Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George all become unrestricted free agents at the same time as Kevin Durant, in 2019. One would think that, if this reverse-decision does happen, it would have Durant playing with Westbrook again.
“I am OKC. I’m still OKC. That blue is going to be in my blood forever.” Sure sounds like OKC is your home, Kevin. All this journalist asks of you: Please, when the time comes to make your decision, have ESPN do an inordinate broadcast of the whole thing. GOATs are supposed to have a flair for the dramatic.
Photo: (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)