This Day In Sports: Durant’s first ring (and other hardware)

June 12, 2017: The Golden State Warriors complete the most remarkable playoff run in NBA history with a 129-120 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers to capture their second championship in three years. It was the third straight title series between the two teams, the first time that had ever happened in the NBA. The Warriors won four games to one—the loss was their only one of the postseason against 16 victories. The Finals MVP was Kevin Durant, who had joined Golden State from Oklahoma City as a free agent during the offseason in search of a championship. Durant outdueled Cavs superstar LeBron James in the series by averaging more than 35 points per game.

Durant’s move to the Warriors rankled a lot of folks. The previous season, Durant’s eighth with Oklahoma City, the Thunder had gone up three games-to-one over Golden State in the Western Conference Finals only to fall to the defending champions (the Warriors fell to James and the Cavs in the NBA Finals). KD was seen as taking the easy way out for the sake of a title, joining Golden State’s powerful core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But the Warriors were hungry, having been stung by blowing a three games-to-one lead to Cleveland in 2016.

Durant re-signed with Golden State for the 2017-18 season, and the Warriors returned to the NBA Finals, beating LeBron’s Cavaliers again in a sweep. And Durant repeated as the Finals MVP. The 2018-19 campaign was not as kind, as he missed nine playoff games with a right calf strain. Durant returned for Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors but was lost two minutes into the second quarter with a serious Achilles injury. Golden State fell to the Raptors in six games, and Durant’s time with the Warriors was done.

Wanting his own super team and his own signature on a title, Durant signed with the Brooklyn Nets 2½ weeks later, but he sat out the entire 2019-20 season. His wish for a personal crown was not granted with the Nets, and in February of this year he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, considered by many an NBA title favorite. But the Suns were eliminated in six games in the Western Conference semifinals by the Denver Nuggets, coach Monty Williams was fired, and Frank Vogel was hired last week. The future, as always, will be interesting for Durant.

Not to forget where Durant’s NBA Odyssey began. He’s the one remaining active tie to the Seattle SuperSonics, who drafted him second overall out of Texas in 2007. Durant was named 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year with the Sonics after averaging 20.3 points per game. It was the second season Clay Bennett had owned the team, and in the summer of 2008 Bennett packed up Durant and the rest of the Sonics and moved them to Oklahoma City.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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