In the aftermath of Kevin Durant’s departure from Golden State, there’s been an effort to unpack just what happened. There’s been reports that Durant struggled to find his place in what was always Steph Curry’s team. There have been rumors that Durant was upset with how the Warriors treated him after he quite literally ruptured his Achilles trying to win them another ring. But an anecdote in a recent piece on the end of this chapter of the Warriors dynasty from ESPN’s Zach Lowe might give us the best insight into Durant’s psyche yet.
The Warriors won the 2017 NBA Finals, earning Durant his very first NBA championship. Finally reaching the mountaintop is thought to be the peak of a player’s career, especially for Durant, who had gotten so close in Oklahoma City but failed to finish. Instead, the opposite happened. The feelings of joy and accomplishment Durant thought he’d experience escaped him. From Lowe’s piece:
Durant spent part of the summer after that first championship working with Steve Nash, a Warriors consultant. Nash was struck by Durant’s despondency.
“He didn’t have a great summer,” Nash told me last year. “He was searching for what it all meant. He thought a championship would change everything and found out it doesn’t. He was not fulfilled.”
We’d heard rumblings of this before, that the validation Durant was seeking didn’t come with the ring like he thought it would. But Lowe goes on to say that Durant was moody and withdrawn during the 2017-18 season, as the Warriors would go on to win their second-straight title.
The Warriors enjoyed having Durant, and he enjoyed playing in Golden State. Still: They never found a permanent comfort zone together. Teammates and coaches looked for hopeful signs. When Durant and Stephen Curry sipped wine together for hours after a team dinner in Denver during Durant’s first preseason with Golden State, coaches smiled. The two stars were getting to know each other, getting over the awkward stage.
But Durant would withdraw. He grew so quiet during the middle of the 2017-18 season that coach Steve Kerr summoned him to lunch in Portland before the All-Star break. “I don’t want to lose you,” Durant remembered Kerr telling him.
“He had been drifting a bit,” Kerr told ESPN after the 2018 NBA Finals. “He’s vulnerable. I felt the need to reconnect.”
Many factors player into Durant’s decision to join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn this summer. But perhaps Durant’s idea of a championship truly failed to meet the reality of it, and, unhappy with various other things happening in the Bay area, it finally pushed him to leave.