Before the Warriors face the Nets on opening night in the NBA, I’ve got one (rhetorical) question.
Was it all a dream? Did the Warriors really win an NBA-record 73 games (after winning it all the previous year) and then lose in the NBA Finals, even after securing a 3-1 series lead against LeBron James the Cavaliers—and then recover by signing arguably the best player in the league in Kevin Durant? Did that really happen?
The Warriors went on to dominate the next two NBA seasons, winning two championships with Durant plus thier 73-win core of superstar Stephen Curry, his Splash Brother, guard Klay Thompson and the brash Draymond Green at forward. The basketball was sublime, beautiful and dominant.
But it was also weird—almost too good and a bit contrived. And it got more weird until Durant decided to leave the club for the Nets, after injuring his Achilles tendon in the 2019 playoffs with Golden State. Durant and Green suffered a bit of a falling out during that season, KD’s last with the club. To add a player of Durant’s dominance to a uniquely dominant team seemed out of sorts, though it didn’t have to be that way.
Durant must have realized, somewhere, that he would never be the heart and soul of the Golden State franchise. That title already belonged to Curry, Thompson and Green — and mostly to the two-time NBA MVP, Curry. But even if Durant did know that coming in, it didn’t seem to sit right with him during his tenure in the Bay Area.
According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, Durant couldn’t replicate the bond he had with his previous hometown, Oklahoma City, while he was with the Warriors. Here’s a bit of what Letourneau wrote:
That deep of a bond wasn’t possible with the Warriors or their fan base. By the time Durant signed with Golden State, the franchise had already ridden Curry, Thompson and Green to an NBA-record 73-win season, two straight Finals and the team’s first title in 40 years.
Durant’s decision to join the Warriors was widely criticized as the easy route to his first career championship. Unlike the Thunder, Golden State didn’t depend on Durant to contend.
Durant earned two championships and two NBA Finals MVPs with the Warriors, but he didn’t find contentment. Best of luck to him with his new team, the Nets. He’s earned everything he’s accomplished, and he’s easily one of the top-3 players in the NBA.
But to see him in another uniform won’t be weird, as it would be if Curry, Thompson or Green changed teams. It was more strange when Durant joined the 73-win Warriors, and the fantastic results that followed, while spectacular, will always have their unique place in NBA history. The run was seemingly too good to be true. And though it really, really did happen, it feels like we’ve all woken up from a dream and the NBA world is (somewhat) normal again.