Don’t thank Kevin Durant for bringing his eye-popping resume or his staggering talent set or his limitless shooting range to the Golden State Warriors.
Thank him, mostly, for changing the way we think about the Bay Area’s basketball team at its very core.
By verifying that he will be a Warrior for years to come — yes, that was 27-year-old Kevin Wayne Durant, by way of Washington D.C. and the University of Texas and the Seattle SuperSonics and the Oklahoma City Thunder; that was him holding that Warriors jersey No. 35 on Thursday in Oakland — Durant waved a wand and reminded us that the Steph Curry/Steve Kerr/Klay Thompson/Bob Myers/Draymond Green/Joe Lacob/Andre Iguodala Warriors are a special team built on joy, camaraderie, wins and basketball bliss, and worthy of our belief that they are an all time Bay Area treat.
‘Cause, you know, we’d sort of forgotten that.
There was that whole historic collapse in the NBA Finals thing that got in the way.
The 3-1 lead over the Cleveland LeBrons vanishing in the still-mysterious final minutes of Game 7, the choke job — yes, let’s call it that — that caused a nation of Charles Barkleys to rejoice and feel reaffirmed that the Warriors’ high-flying, perimeter-shooting, 73-win identity had fatal flaws, all that was lodged so firmly in all of our craws.
It would be the collapse that would never go away, and jostle for position under the boards with Game 6 of the 2002 World Series for the Worst Pain in Bay Area Sports History.
It would leave us all wondering if the moment would ever come again, if the 2015 NBA championship would be the Dubs’ one shot. That banner was heavenly, for sure. But would it be the only one of the Steph Curry Era? These moments, after all, don’t come along so easily, as I was just saying to my good friend, Karl Malone.
But by landing Durant, the conversation changed.
No longer is The Collapse the primary talking point at summer cookouts. Now, Durant and The Future is the primary talking point.
And by enunciating why he chose the Warriors, Durant reminded us of the specialness of these Dubs. By using words like “authentic”, “organic”, “real” to describe the Warriors vibe, he reaffirmed to us that the seemingly ego-free Warriors under Kerr’s watch were, indeed, something to envy.
His language and imagery wasn’t an accident. He spoke of the four Warriors players entering the Hamptons to meet him as if they were “holding hands”, and you had to think that was a picture Durant had all along when he looked at the Warriors across the basketball court.
The ball movement. The screen-setting. The cutting. The open shots. The commitment to team basketball. The family feel to the organization. All the things that made Steve Kerr’s Warriors win 140 regular season games in two seasons were things that Durant wanted to be a part of.
The Collapse clouded our memory. It clouded our view of the Dubs. They were the team that let us down. They were the team that couldn’t close the deal that was so closable.
And then along came Kevin Durant to remind the Bay Area: No, what you fell in love with was real. I want to be a part of that joy. I want to be a part of that team.
He said they were feelings he couldn’t ignore. And by joining the Warriors, he has re-ignited those feelings in Dub Nation. You can’t ignore them if you try.