“If you can’t beat em’, join em’.”
After meeting with Miami, San Antonio, New York, Los Angeles [Clippers], Boston, and Golden State -- Kevin Durant took a day to meticulously consider his options. A day of reflection, a day to project his future, a day to prophesize where the best possible location is for him to win. So his decision comes as no surprise because it is the easy way out. Kevin Durant has signed a two year-58 million dollar contract with the Silicon Valley Warriors.
The same Warriors team that just experienced the worst roller coaster ride in league history. Greatest start to an NBA season pries the most-wins-in-a-single-season record out of Chicago’s cold-stubborn hands. Then they lose Curry in the first round, and he returns and eviscerates the Blazers in the second round. Then they find themselves down 3-1 against the Thunder, but somehow they triumphantly return to win the series. Then they carry their momentum into the Finals and take a 3-1 lead, just to lose in the same manner OKC did in the series’ prior.
So I guess you would call Kevin Durant a consolation prize, right? What a consolation prize. And, I guess you could call the Warriors a consolation prize for KD? Who obviously lost to the Warriors after leading the series 3-1. Isn’t that the irony in all of this? You were just narrowly vanquished by the Warriors less than two months ago. Durant and Westbrook finally played an entire season together after emerging as two of the top five players in the world. In 2010 you berated players for banning together and bypassing the traditional model of building a championship team via Twitter. Via Twitter! There’s proof!
- The 1995-96 Bulls are the winningest championship team in NBA history. 72 wins and just 10 losses, universally regarded as the greatest NBA team ever. Michael Jordan? Of course. Scottie Pippen? Definitely top 20. Dennis Rodman? It’s a stretch, but maybe. Ron Harper? Toni Kukoc? Steve Kerr? Nope, nope, and a big no: NOPE
- Larry Bird and his Boston Celtics were a star-studded roster comprised of four to five Hall of Famers at any given time. Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Tiny Archibald, Bill Walton… But, never did the Celtics have more than three top twenty players during Bird’s reign: NOPE
- How about the Bad Boys, known for their tenacious and physical defense? Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer… Well, how about a young Dennis Rodman? Nope. Hmm… Moving on: NOPE
- The 1982-83 Sixers were 12-1 in the post season, with 65 regular season wins to boot. Sure they had two top five players in season MVP Moses Malone and Dr. J, but who else? Mo Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and a past-his-prime Bobby Jones? Sorry Sixer fans: NOPE
- Magic Johnson and his Showtime Lakers were comprised of countless Hall of Famers. Kareem, Big Game James, Byron Scott, Cooper, Wilkes, McAdoo, Haywood… Had they to have had four top twenty players right? Well sorry, but sadly the Lakers never apex at the same time. You could make an argument for the 85’ Lakers, but even that would be a stretch. Did I say “sadly”? I didn’t mean sadly. Thankfully**: NOPE
- So there're five of the ten best teams ever. What about a short list of other great teams. The ‘70 Knicks? ‘71 Bucks? ‘72 Lakers? 2001 Lakers? 2013 Heat? 2014 Spurs? 2008 Celtics? Sorry (insert your favorite franchise here), but none of those esteemed teams can compare.
That leaves us with just one dynasty. One that spanned 13 years, claiming six MVP awards and 11 championships in the process. Beginning when Bill Russell arrived in 1956 and ending upon his departure in 1969. Those Celtics teams had four top twenty players numerous times, whether it be the tandem of Russell, Cooz, Sharman and Heinsohn, or Russell, Sam Jones, Havlicek, and Heinsohn. Hell of a dynasty to be in the same company with right? However, that was in a league consisting of 8-14 teams. And, those players weren’t assembled through acquiring marquee free agents. Wilt or Oscar didn’t leave their respective teams after losing to the Celtics in the eastern conference finals after a heated seven-game series.
The biggest problem that Kevin Durant presents by leaving Oklahoma City isn’t the bond he’s broken with his former teammates; it’s the invincibility that he’s assured Golden State. There’s a possibility that signing with the Warriors could be a disaster. That Steve Kerr won’t be able to juggle the tempest of personalities and egos that comprise their roster. That there won’t be enough basketballs on the floor to satisfy the Warriors’ tenacious scorers. But, that’s a big if. What we do know is that on paper this Warriors team has four of the twenty best players on the planet. And, that’s a problem. As we just discussed, the only other team to accomplish that feat was during a dynasty that won 11 championships.
I have a theory, though. As the league sought to expand in the late 80’s and into the 90’s, adding teams like the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, Vancouver Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, the league lost a great amount of parity. Basketball fans are under the belief that a smaller league is worse for the sport, but that misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Ideally, as the league grows larger, the talent would disperse accordingly. However, there just simply isn’t enough talent to accommodate the surplus of teams. So if players like LeBron or Kevin Durant just decide to jump ship and go to whatever situation seems most convenient, than what message does that send to the stars beneath them? The reverberations are catastrophic. Players banning together and turning teams into havens of talent. Who could possibly beat the Warriors? The Cavaliers? Are they going to add Dwyane Wade? Or will LeBron and his fraternity of perennial all-stars finally join one another? Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh versus Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green? That’s insane.
Everyone loves imagining what a team of superstars would be like. What it would look like. How it would function. How effective would they be? But, Durant and the Warriors begs so many questions. Is this how teams should be built? Should the league even allow this? Is it fair? Maybe it isn’t fair. It is a crisis in parity. A lack of equity. Bernie Sanders would hate this. I hate this. And, it sounds like NBA fans hate this.