Kevin Durant agreed to a two-year 54 million dollar contract to sign with the defending Western Conference Champion and record setting 73-9 Golden State Warriors. The same team that beat his Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games, after his OKC team had a 3-1 lead. And he’s getting killed for it.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith called it a weak move on his part to sign with them. Several other current NBA players threw some subtle, or not so subtle shade, at the former League MVP via social media.
The reality is, Durant made a decision every working American will have to make at some point in their life. That is, where and what is the best chance for me to accomplish everything I hope to accomplish in my personal and professional life. A professional life that has a shorter life span than majority of professions on Earth, and one where he’s at a stage he is in the midst of his prime.
“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.” ~ Kevin Durant, The Players’ Tribune, July 4th, 2016.
See the problem is, everyone is looking at this as just a basketball decision. I get that. Especially considering that is what Durant said it would be about when he was asked about his free agency immediately following the Thunder’s postseason loss. But as you can read by the portion of his piece he wrote for The Players’ Tribune to announce his decision, it was clearly not just about basketball. When you’ve lived in a place for more than 9 years, and those years are during your early to late 20’s, it’s not out of the realm of comprehension that a person would want to experience something different.
How many of you have had a great job in a city you were comfortable in, and your co-workers value your ideas and love being around you and you them? I’m sure that’s a lot of you. But what if another job offers you more money, with new challenges, in a city you’re intrigued by what differences it has to offer you than where you are? And what if at your current job there is uncertainty that some of your favorite co-workers or boss may be on the way out and the camaraderie that you all have will be lost? I’m sure many of you are going to take a serious look at moving on to the new opportunity. I did, and I know of many others who have.
I say all that to frame this. What if Durant knows Russell Westbrook is leaving? Or maybe he couldn’t get an answer from Westbrook he was comfortable with to make a decision for his future. If Durant had resigned in Oklahoma City and Westbrook leaves in 2017, then what? The Thunder aren’t the same team they were before his decision, and it’s not even close. The Thunder lost in the second round of the playoffs in 2013 when Westbrook was injured in the first round. They didn’t make it to the playoffs in 2015 when Durant missed majority of the season with a foot injury. This team needs both of them to be championship competitors, and if one of them isn’t there we know they aren’t. That means the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs and others would pass them by. Maybe Durant knows that, and instead of waiting to see that happen while entering his prime years, he decided it’s time to move on before he languishes on a team that is not a championship contender. Oklahoma City has already moved on from Scott Brooks, the coach he was with for seven of his nine seasons that helped him become the player he is.
So I ask you, wouldn’t you leave a company or job you love that you see is on the verge of collapsing before getting left behind in the rubble alone? KD did just that.