When Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors in free agency in the summer of 2016, many in the basketball world considered him a mercenary. They thought one of the best players teaming up with a team that had just been to two straight finals would be bad for the sport.
Durant heard the noise. And he noticed it up close, too, with local beat writers framing the team as “KD and the Warriors,” he told The Ringer’s Logan Murdock.
“I was expecting — and maybe that’s my fault — I was expecting the beat writers, whoever was on the beat there, whoever covered the team, to integrate me into the Warriors’ way of doing things,” Durant told The Ringer. “Because I never tried to step outside of that and make that situation bigger and make it all about me. I just felt like I wanted to be a part of the group. There were plenty of times where obviously when it comes to media, I was separated from the group.”
The coverage, in Durant’s mind, didn’t match the beautiful product on the court he helped create. Durant bought into Golden State’s free-flowing offense and created basketball nirvana. Back-to-back titles didn’t prevent negative coverage.
Durant was specifically put off by the amount of time and energy spent by reporters asking about his free agency plans. Durant signed one-year deals with GSW to maximize his possible earnings, but it also created a dynamic where nobody was sure about his long-term commitment.
Still, Durant thought the near-constant focus on his future with the team was “unfair” and “unprofessional.”
“I just think I deserved a little bit more respect than that,” Durant told The Ringer. “I came out here and gave back money, sacrificed my name, and went out here and sacrificed my body every night to be the best that I can be. I just asked for a little bit more respect to wait until after the season than to badger me every day, all year with questions like that.”
In the end, Durant sought greener pastures in Brooklyn with his close friend Kyrie Irving. He had a public blow-up with Draymond Green on the bench before the season ended unceremoniously. The last time Durant was seen in a Warriors jersey was when he tore his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 Finals.
Although his tenure in the Bay was brief, and it ended awkwardly, Durant looks back on his time with the Warriors fondly. His career has had stops in Oklahoma City, Golden State and now Brooklyn, and the forward hopes to see his jersey in the rafters in all three cities.
Only one other player ever, Wilt Chamberlain, has had his jersey retired by three franchises.
“Every one of these places I played is my home,” Durant told The Ringer. “I can imagine me when I’m done, and I don’t think any one of these franchises would be like, ‘No, K, what you did here is not a part of our history.’ I’m going to be a Hall of Famer when I’m done, one of the greatest to ever play. If you don’t want me to be a part of your program when I’m done playing, then that’s personal…
“OKC has to retire my jersey. It wouldn’t even be good for the game of basketball if they didn’t. The same with Golden State. I’m still doing what I’m doing here in Brooklyn, but if I continue on what I’m doing four or five years, then I’ll feel the same way about this program. I better have a home. Because I feel like I am basketball. I breathe it. This is my DNA. I put in the time and respect and love for each one of these programs on and off the floor to get that type of recognition. If I don’t do it, then it’s personal.”