Kevin Durant confirmed it: If the Golden State Warriors had won Game 7 (or Game 5, or Game 6) of the NBA Finals, Durant would not have signed with them in free agency. Speaking to Rolling Stone's Paul Solotaroff, Durant said he was crushed after Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, when Klay Thompson ascended to a higher plane and made an NBA playoff record 11 3-pointers, and when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the championship three weeks later, the superstar called his agent, Rich Kleiman, wanting to talk about Golden State:
Durant had wanted that game so bad, he did something he never did: let himself savor winning before it happened: "Man, I saw us in the ball caps and T-shirts, with our fans going crazy and dancing. That town was so good to us, showed us love even when we lost. I wanted it more for them than even me." He went home crushed, replaying his every miss - and there'd been plenty. He acquitted himself better in Game Seven, but Westbrook was strictly on fumes then. Some part of Durant knew he'd already punched his ticket. "It felt like that whole thing was set up for me to leave," he says, "especially after they blew a lead in the finals, because I damn sure wasn't going there if they'd won. But after Game Seven, I called up my agent and said, 'Damn, dude, Golden State - what if?'"
Durant implied this a little over a week ago, telling a crowd at Stanford that he was "glad" the Warriors lost. He hadn't directly said it to anybody but Rolling Stone, though, preferring to deflect the question.
On one hand, it's easy to understand Durant's logic. Had he joined the two-time defending champions, coming off an NBA record 73-win regular season rather than joining the team that blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, then the backlash that he's received since the Fourth of July would be much worse. Maybe he wouldn't have even seen it as a challenge or thought Golden State needed him. Multiple reports indicated his pitch meeting with the Warriors included Durant and Kleiman grilling the Warriors' stars about why they wanted to play with him.
On the other hand, the theme of this profile is that Durant finally stopped trying to please people after reevaluating his life when he injured his foot. When it came time to make the biggest professional decision of his life, he considered only his wants and needs. If that's the case, and he'd been thinking about it for a while, then why do the optics of joining a juggernaut matter? Should one game, in which he did not play, really be able to swing everything?
Apparently so, according to the man who made the choice. If he says he's "damn sure" about it let's take him at his word.