Kevin Durant has been criticized, underestimated and questioned for the entirety of his NBA career. That’s not an experience specific to him. In fact, most NBA superstars and MVPs endure a lengthy period of skepticism. We need look no further than LeBron James for an example.
However, KD’s decision to join a 73-9 Warriors super team that had played in two straight NBA Finals placed the biggest target on his back that we’ve ever seen. All-time great players have chosen to join contenders before, but no one has ever done it under the circumstances that Durant did. After spending eight seasons as the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant left the house he helped build to join another NBA MVP’s team – a team that didn’t need him.
His decision didn’t sit well with a lot of fans and media – and was perceived as particularly egregious by the same pundits and talking heads that once called LeBron James a whiny cry baby who had no clutch gene.
It was a huge gamble for his legacy. If Durant had failed to win this ring – hell, if he’d failed to win Finals MVP – he’d have looked like a chump. Plain and simple. It would’ve been remembered as one of the weakest moves in the history of the sport.
But he didn’t fail.
There’s no arguing this point: Kevin Durant did what he came to do. You can debate whether his team set him up to be the hero or not. Either way, he was capable of rising to the occasion. Either way, he helped the Warriors absolutely destroy the team that had embarrassed them just a year prior. Either way, he has the ring and the title and trophy. Either way, he stared down LeBron – the greatest NBA player anyone under the age of 25 has ever seen play – and took what was his.
KD staked his entire career on one series. He endured the constant barrage of insults with one goal in mind, which was to make damn sure that he didn’t become the next Patrick Ewing or Charles Barkley or Allen Iverson – a Hall of Fame talent with no hardware to show for it. Durant refused to accept a future in which he’d be haunted by the ghosts of failures past – so he found the path of least resistance.
Here’s the funny thing though: the path less traveled winds through shadows and under the shade of trees, offering intermittent protection from onlookers and pace keepers. You can trip and fall flat on your face, and there will likely be very few people there to witness it.
The path of least resistance? It’s lit up like Times Square and lined with bleachers full of people. You’re never out of view, and even the smallest mistake is broadcast on the Jumbotron in high definition.
So yeah, you’re more likely to finish the race on that smooth track than if you were running those bumpy paths in the woods, but you have to do it faster and with better form than everyone else.