Kevin Durant didn't help enhance his legacy by choosing to jump ship to the Golden State Warriors. Never has a player so quickly turned his image upside down as the Slim Reaper just did. Joining any other team would still give him leeway to be the undisputed big dog on it, but the choice to join the Warriors is perhaps the worst one he could have made from a reputation stand point.
One cannot help but compare his decision with that of LeBron James' “Decision” in 2010 when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. Although LeBron was a hometown hero in Cleveland and he handled his free agency about as bad as one can, one can still claim that Durant outdid LeBron when it comes to making a bad decision.
Here are 10 reasons why Kevin Durant's decision is worse than LeBron James' 2010 Decision
#1 The 2015 Thunder are overwhelmingly better than 2010 Cavaliers
LeBron James gave his heart and soul to the Cleveland Cavaliers night in and night out from 2003 to 2010. He resiliently carried them on his back with memorable performances in the post-season. All the while being defeated time and time again because he didn't have enough help around him.
In 2009, LeBron had an aging Shaq and Antwan Jamison to fall back on along with Mo Williams. Compare that with the 2015-16 Thunder who had Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter to help Durant. LeBron had been carrying sub-par teams for so long it’s a wonder his back didn't hunch. Kevin Durant had all the help he could ask for, and then some.
The Cavs averaged 102.1 points per game and allowed 95.6. The Thunder in 2015 averaged a whooping 110.2 points per game while allowing 102.9.
With a blazing ball of fury named Russell Westbrook pushing the ball up court, there isn't much more a star can ask for. Yet, Kevin Durant left behind tons of talent on the Thunder when he absconded to the Warriors.
#2 A twinge of hypocrisy
What makes Durant's decision ripe to be derided is the stance he took when the Heat and Lakers were forming super-teams. You can't point fingers at others for colluding and then do a flip-flop and do it yourself without expecting backlash.
Now everybody wanna play for the heat and the Lakers? Let's go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 16, 2010
The beliefs of a politician can be as malleable as liquid, but a sportsman needs to find his stance and stick to it. The best in the business let their game do the talking. Calling out other players for their decisions is petulant at best. A star would have welcomed the competition and chewed them out. This comes close to whining, especially in hindsight.
#3 The Warriors had narrowly eliminated the Thunder
It's supposedly not about how hard you're hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. In this case, it's about how quickly you can change sides and go to a team which beat you.
It's bad enough going to a heated rival for whom you ought to harbor some amount of animosity. But it would still be understandable if the rivals were markedly better. There's nothing all that wrong with trying to level the playing field, even though it's not honorable.
What makes it worse is that the Thunder were not vastly inferior to the Warriors. One could argue that the gap between the two teams was infinitesimal, seeing as the Thunder pushed the Warriors to 7 games in the Western Conference Finals.
It is bad enough jumping ship to a team which beat you. When you abscond in spite of having a great team yourself, that opens the door to ridicule.
LeBron had jumped ship to a nondescript team which gained prominence only because of his and Chris Bosh's arrival.
#4 Tearing a torn heart asunder again
No other franchise in the NBA has been ravaged recently as much as the Seattle Supersonics when they made the transition to becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder. Only the hurricane-ravaged New Orleans Pelicans come close.
They thought they had one when they drafted Kevin Durant, but that love story lasted only a year as the team relocated to Oklahoma.
Seattle ran a “Save our Sonics” rally to oppose the team's relocation. Lawsuits were filed. A documentary named Sonicsgate was produced, detailing the bloodshed. But the city could not hold on to the team. Just like the team could not hold onto their star.
There are some fans who stopped supporting the Sonics when they became the Thunder, but for the loyal die-hard fans this blow comes as a tough one in a tender spot.
While Cleveland had a decades-long title drought, they didn't have their heart torn out recently as the Thunder had.
#5 Compromising his legacy
When LeBron James went to the Miami Heat, it was clearly established that he's the man on the team. While Dwyane Wade might assume the role of a closer time and again, there was no question that LeBron James was the motor which drove the team. He was in a position to control how his destiny was chronicled.
The Heat had not won a playoff series since 2006 when they won the title. They were coming off a 47 win season where they were knocked out in the first round. In contrast, the Warriors are coming off a 73 win season and a Finals appearance.
Kevin Durant now finds himself in a subjugated role to Stephen Curry. A former MVP going to the team of the reigning two-time MVP will need to slow his role and fit in.
Even if Durant wins a ring with the Warriors, he will find it difficult to dismiss the notions that he's riding Stephen Curry's coattails.
#6 Thunder had vastly retooled and improved in the offseason
While LeBron James was regaled with tales of the potential of an over the hill Shaq coming to help him, Kevin Durant actually had a team which was going all out to improve.
The James Harden trade notwithstanding, Harden needed his own team to attain his potential anyway, the Thunder had left no stone unturned to add help to the Thunder.
Recently they had acquired Enes Kanter for a hefty amount to bolster their front court. Now in the 2016 off-season, they performed a miracle of a trade. They acquired Victor Oladipo, who's friends with Kevin Durant. They also got a stretch four in Ersan Ilyasova and an intriguing prospect in Domantas Sabonis. And all they gave up was Serge Ibaka.
The Thunder had barely been edged by the Warriors. They responded by improving their team for another run. But the superstar chose to turn his back on them.
LeBron's Cavaliers didn't have the pieces or ingenuity to add such help for him back in 2010.
#7 Taking the easy way out
Ask Michael Jordan. Ask Charles Barkley. Heck, ask Stephen A. Smith. There is no glory in taking the easy way out. When the going gets tough, you can't get going to another team where all is sunshine and roses.
Don't give a damn what anyone says: weak move by KD. You go to GSW, the team who beat you, when you're already on a title contender? Please!— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 4, 2016
The Warriors have just come off the best regular season in NBA history. They've bested the erstwhile unbeatable record of 72-10 set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, before narrowly falling in the Finals. This is a complete team which was a few breaks away from two consecutive titles.
Kevin Durant has chosen to go to a team where he could even adapt the reduced role of a spot up shooter and be productive. He didn't go to the Celtics where he could have helmed the ship. He didn't choose a struggling franchise on the verge of a breakthrough like the Clippers. He took the easiest way out by joining the Warriors.
#8 Kevin Durant preached loyalty
The Kevin Durant of yesterday might fail to recognize the turn he's taken today. The Thunder have one of the most expressive fan bases in the league. Playing in the Chesapeake Energy Arena is one of the toughest trips for any team. The fans are loud and rabid and give their team a sizable home court advantage.
Except for some press fluffs, Durant enjoyed unbridled support from the city of Oklahoma. They were loyal to him through his ups and downs. Durant himself expressed his loyalty to the franchise time and time again. This led them to making moves to keep improving the squad around him.
@Greg_Monaco I wanna play with Oklahoma City for my whole career— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) April 28, 2009
Durant went back on his word, something he had preached time and time again. While LeBron did the same, he didn't get the help he deserved with the Cavaliers and they didn't earn his loyalty.
#9 A team consistently on the rise the right way
Getting into semantics, there is no right or wrong way to build a team. It is a competitive environment and teams do what they can to get better.
The right way is supposed to be building through the draft and smart trades. The Thunder drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams among other smart picks. They did their best to keep improving year after year. This was a team on a journey to the title.
Jerry West was 1-8 in NBA Finals. He had many heartbreaking losses with the Lakers, but he persevered and ultimately won big. The Thunder have been a few lucky breaks away from winning a title many times. This would have been the ultimate underdog story of a small city franchise climbing to the top the right way.
LeBron's Cavaliers were mired in mediocrity for the majority of his duration. Take him off that team and they fall in the lottery. The Thunder were built better and built to last.
#10 Dropping a classy organization
When LeBron James left Cleveland, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert expressed his fury in a scathing letter written in Comic Sans of all fonts. The Cavs organization took some of the brunt off of James for leaving the way he did. If a player gives so much to a team and a city, he deserves a better send-off.
The economic impact a LeBron James or a Kevin Durant cannot be overstated. They are an industry in themselves, and they team they stay with reaps the benefits in green. LeBron got snubbed by the team he killed himself for.
Compare and contrast that with the classy response of the OKC Thunder top brass thanking Durant.
Thunder statements on Kevin Durant pic.twitter.com/QMEHsKiwhU— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) July 4, 2016
Before one dismisses this as a hater spewing hate, let's acknowledge that all Durant did was take up a better job. Something anyone of us would have done. Also, a decade or so down the line people will forget the turn of the heel and just appreciate the beautiful basketball we will be treated to.
The Warriors' offense was historically explosive to begin with. It's a once in a millennium shot to have two supremo shooters like Curry and Thompson. Now they have added another once in a generation scorer to the mix. Which basketball fan would not be delighted at the prospect of watching this poetry in motion?
There is nothing wrong with what Durant did. But his decision does come across as a worse one than LeBron James'.