The 2017 NBA Finals weren’t just a redemption quest for the Golden State Warriors, whose collapse against the Cavs the previous year had threatened to haunt them for the rest of their days. It was also bittersweet vindication for Kevin Durant, who’d spent the season absorbing relentless criticism for hitching his wagon to a star in free agency.
With just under a minute remaining in Game 3, Durant knocked down arguably a series-clinching three-pointer to put the Warriors up 3-0, and he did it in dramatic — and symbolic — fashion with a pull-up jumper in transition right in LeBron James’ face.
Earlier this season, Durant said he felt like LeBron was “passing the torch” in that moment, but in hindsight and after a certain amount of backlash, he’s now tried to clarify those comments that he felt got pulled out of context.
“I saw a lot of people took that out of context: What I’m saying is when somebody passes the torch, they’re letting you in the room,” Durant said. “You got LeBron. You got [Dwyane Wade]. You got [Carmelo Anthony]. You got Paul Pierce. You got Larry Bird. You got Dr. J all in a room. It’s my turn to be in there with them and enjoy being one of the best players in the world. It wasn’t the fact that I took it from LeBron and he’s gone now. Obviously he’s still around.”
Durant is just mixing his metaphors at this point, nor were his original comments really taken out of context since he pretty much said precisely that he “felt like he [LeBron] was passing the torch to me” in that moment.
LeBron would never willingly pass the torch to anyone while he’s still playing and in fact, even in his 15th season, is still arguably the best player on the planet and a leading MVP candidate. But Durant is at least partially correct. He’s certainly in the same metaphorical room with the other greats of his generation, regardless of whether any hazardous incendiary devices are being passed around among them.