Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 7:47 AM

Hired-Gun Durant and Warriors Outshoot King James and Cavaliers

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

It had been five seasons since Kevin Durant had reached the NBA Finals, a basketball eternity, but the star forward certainly made the most of his first trip since then, leading the Warriors to a championship – his first – while winning Finals MVP honors.

Durant, 28, received the honor Monday after the Warriors’ 129-120 Game 5 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena, garnering every vote on a media panel of 11.

‘The way that he embraced the opportunity in the Finals, it was unbelievable,’ Stephen Curry said [Gulp].

(ESPN, June 13, 2017)

I was rooting for the Cavs. And I appreciate the glimmer of hope fellow fans had after their blowout win over the Warriors on Friday.

But even before that game, I felt it was expecting too much for them to repeat last year’s feat of coming from 0-3 down to win the championships (on the Warriors home court) 4-3. Sure enough, it turns out the Warriors were probably just trying to make the series look respectable by letting the Cavs win one game.

That said, for me, Durant was always the storyline of this NBA season. Specifically, I wanted to see how things would play out after he abandoned Oklahoma last year to take his talents to Golden State.

Of course, this storyline is familiar to all NBA fans. After all, James drew unprecedented attention, and considerable derision, when he abandoned Cleveland in 2010 to take his talents to Miami.

Most commentators criticized him for turning his abandonment into a Trumpian TV spectacle. Perhaps this is why Durant executed his abandonment like a Navy Seal on a secret mission.

But I criticized James for his can’t beat them, join them cowardice. This criticism holds for Durant. Which is why I can think of no better tribute to him than to reprise “LeBron Abandons Cleveland for Miami,” July 13, 2010. I have included bracketed additions to reinforce this symmetry.

___________________

It’s important to bear in mind that James’s [Durant’s] all-consuming ambition to win a championship is the same ambition that motivated (and still motivates) all great NBA players: winning really is everything to them.

And he will surely win in Miami [Golden State]. For the triumvirate of James [Durant], Chris Bosh [Klay Thompson], and Dwyane Wade [Stephen Curry] has the same potential to dominate during the playoffs as other championship triumvirates like Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Michael, Bill Cartwright, and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls.

The only question for LeBron [Kevin] is: What price victory?

After all, finally winning on a team with which they suffered so many years of playoff frustration is what made winning a championship so sweet for superstars like Dr. J and Michael. Not to mention the unbridled pride and joy they brought to long-suffering fans in cities that, in the case of Dr. J’s Philadelphia, had not won an NBA championship in almost two decades, and in the case of Michael’s Chicago, had never won at all.

By contrast, I fear that winning for James [Durant] will be bitter sweet. Not least because, instead of being hailed as a Basketball savior in Miami [Golden State], where the Heat [Warriors] won a championship just years ago (in 2006) [in 2015], he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun – who they brought in to help them win a few more.

Even worse, no matter how many championships he wins in Miami [Golden State], James [Durant] will be forever haunted by the fact that he abandoned not just his team but his childhood home [long-suffering Oklahoma fans] to do so.

Then, of course, there’s the inevitable conflict that will arise when some sports writers and commentators begin referring to the Heat [Warriors] as James’s [Durant’s] team, while others continue referring to it as D-Wade’s [Curry’s … remember him?].  Because, even though a domineering triumvirate seems an indispensable component of all championship teams, there’s always one player who must be treated like the undisputed star. …

To be fair, though, the people of Cleveland [Oklahoma] should be thanking their lucky stars that James [Durant] gave them seven [nine] years of the best entertainment in sports, as well as ancillary economic benefits and national goodwill that most cities would die for. He did not sign a contract to be their golden goose for the rest of his career; therefore, any charge of betrayal in this case is utterly baseless and irresponsible.

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Incidentally, you’ve probably heard James whining about super teams, like Durant’s Warriors, ruining the NBA. But you should bear this “Golden Rule” in mind whenever you hear his pot-calling-kettle-black tripe:

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

(Luke 6:31)

After all, Durant’s Warriors only did to James’s Cavaliers, what James’s Heat did to others after he took his talents to Miami. As indicated above, only players like Dr. J and Michael have standing to lament the cowardice of superstars abandoning original teams to create super teams.

To be fair, though, James returned home and famously fulfilled his promise to bring an NBA championship to his original team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. But it’s debatable whether he’d have any of the three championship rings he has today if he hadn’t gone to Miami to secure the first one. The same holds for Durant with respect to Golden State. The challenge for him now is to emulate James by “returning home” to fulfill his promise to bring an NBA championship to his original team, the Oklahoma Thunder.

I duly hailed James for fulfilling his promise in “NBA Finals: LeBron Delivers on His Promise to Cleveland, Finally,” June 20, 2016. I hope I can hail Durant in similar fashion, someday.

Related commentaries:
LeBron abandons Cleveland
LeBron returns home

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