OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) - Kevin Durant was criticized by many for joining an already-stacked Golden State Warriors team last July but it is hard to question the move after watching how seamlessly he fit in with the NBA’s newest super team.
Durant was named the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals on Monday after claiming an elusive NBA championship over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I remember the first day of camp and I walk into camp, and I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what these guys were like on the court,” Durant told reporters after the game.
“I just wanted to come in there and just be me. And I did that from day one, and I just tried to stay with that.”
To win his first championship Durant had to go through the game’s greatest player in Cavaliers forward LeBron James, who he defended for most of the five games.
“Experience is the best teacher in life, and he’s just experiencing and experiencing and experiencing,” said James. “He felt like he needed to reassemble and reassess his career and come here.”
Durant was once again the best player on the floor for the Warriors on Monday, hitting some timely three-pointers en route to a team-high 39 points.
Durant ripped out the hearts of Oklahoma City Thunder fans last year by leaving for the Oakland-based Warriors, which many considered the easiest route to an NBA title.
At the time, Durant called the leadup to his decision the most challenging few weeks of his NBA career, and even said it was not about winning titles but about personal growth and quality-of-life choices.
Regardless, the decision by one of the game’s greatest players shook the NBA landscape and created a super team that became overnight villains given their sheer depth of top talent.
It also created lofty expectations for Durant, with many onlookers saying his move would be a failure if the Warriors did not go on to win a title in their first season together.
Durant did indeed join a ready-made contender by teaming up with two-time reigning league MVP Stephen Curry on a team that won it all in 2015 and were runners-up last year after a season in which they had a record 73 wins in 82 games.
But assembling great players has never been a guarantee of instant success as too many star players can sometimes create issues with how the ball should get distributed.
None of that was an issue for the Warriors as Durant has been called an unselfish player whose only desire was to do whatever is in the best interests of his team.
Durant was already one of the greatest players in NBA history before his move to the Warriors after collecting the scoring title four times and picking up MVPs honors in 2014.
But he offered a glimpse of what more he could offer by averaging more than 30 points per game during a 4-1 series win over the Cavaliers in the Finals.
He also produced what will likely go down as the signature moment of the Finals when he hit a three-pointer over LeBron James with 45 seconds left in Game Three that gave the Warriors the lead for good and all but sealed the Cavaliers’ fate.
“I’m just happy for him. He’s had an amazing career, but he just took it to the next level,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “He was incredible all season long. He had an amazing
series, just dominated.”
Editing by Frank Pingue