Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Follow The Trace | Prudent and pragmatic move by Durant

Published:Tuesday | July 12, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) passes around Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half in Game Four of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, May 24,, 2016.

The decisions by NBA superstar Kevin Durant, first of all to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and even more so to join his western conference arch-rivals, Golden State Warriors, remain the hottest talking points in sports locally and internationally.

I think it was a pragmatic and prudent move by one of the genuine stars of the modern game, with his obvious and understandable priority being winning a championship ring.

If Durant's motive for making this move is understood and accepted, all the vitriolic and harsh attacks on his character should be rendered null and void and all the emotional ranting should effectively cease.

Suffice to say that most of those who are being critical of Durant either chose to ignore or reject his motive, or seek to trivialise the value of titles to the modern sports stars. The labels of coward and wimp seem to be the most commonly used in describing the three-time NBA scoring champion and former league MVP.

The main criticism of Durant is that he was already an integral part of a title contender, an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was 3-1 up in the Western Conference final against the same Warriors that compiled the best regular-season record in the history of the league, therefore Durant should have, or could have, stayed in Oklahoma City at least one more season and give it one more shot before throwing in the towel and joining forces with his rivals.

While quite emotionally palatable, that view is devoid of the specific dynamics of the situation. The Thunder performed way above expectations in this past post-season. No one expected them to beat the San Antonio Spurs or lead the Warriors 3-1 in the Western Conference final.

Durant became a free agent at the end of this season, while the other superstar on the Thunder roster, Russell Westbrook, will be a free agent at the end of next season and more than likely will also leave. That Oklahoma City Thunder team is in the process of unravelling. It was decision time for Durant; he sacrificed money and signed a two-year deal with arguably the best team in the league.

 

BEST CHANCE OF WINNING

 

It stands to objective reason that after nine years in the league, Durant desperately does not want to end up like Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone - that category of popular NBA superstars who never won a title.

Durant simply chose to go to the team that will give him - the best chance of winning one or more rings as early as possible.

Ironically, some of the same players from that much heralded 'tough era' of the NBA, namely, Barkley and Malone, also left their franchise teams to hang on to the coat-tails of title contenders, having also awakened to the need to win titles in order to cement their legacy as truly great players.

The mistake they made - which Durant clearly does not want to make - is that they moved too late and thus failed to win a title.

Durant's move, in principle, is similar to what LeBron James did in his move to the Miami Heat. The dynamics are different, but the general principle and the motive of both are exactly the same. James desperately wanted to win titles then, and Durant desperately wants to win titles now.

Twenty or 30 years from now, if Durant and the Golden State Warriors go on to win two, three or four titles, the specific details of this move would have overtime become irrelevant, the current spate of gibberish will be replaced by a new spate of gibberish and the history books will record Durant as one of the all-time great basketball players and a multiple champion.