For the last two seasons, the Cavaliers faced off in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. For the last six years, LeBron’s Eastern Conference team made it to the NBA Finals to take on whoever came out of the West. Only one of those times did that Western team contain Kevin Durant, who was considered for years (and might be again) the second-best player in the NBA behind LeBron.
As one might imagine, this was a motivating factor for KD, who discussed it on Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons.
A look at Durant’s stats in the two years after that Finals appearance — years derailed by critical injuries at key times — show that Durant indeed took some lessons from those Finals to heart. His assists jumped immediately, he became a better defender, and he won the MVP in 2013-14. He also started working out a lot harder in the offseason and it was clear he thought of himself as in the same class as LeBron.
But then his foot injury happened in 2015. And then this past year, when the Thunder were agonizingly close to the Finals only to give up a 3-1 lead to the Warriors (who would then go on to blow their own 3-1 lead), it really seemed to be a breaking point. It might have also necessitated the move to the Warriors, a move that looks awfully similar to the one LeBron made in 2010.