Kevin Durant was once the most revered and cherished superstar in the state of Oklahoma. Sure, Norman once swooned over Sam Bradford, and they do love themselves some Oklahoma-born-and-raised Garth Brooks, but Durant’s contributions to the state and to the community placed him on a seemingly untouchable pedestal of admiration and respect. He was the quiet superstar, leading by example. He was the moral, homegrown (well, if you don’t count that one year in Seattle) kid who put an entire city on his back.
When tornadoes ravaged the Oklahoma countryside, Durant was right there alongside people, helping sort through the wreckage, helping rebuild communities.
After touring the devastation with the Red Cross, he personally committed $1 Million of his own money to the rebuilding effort. He gave himself time and time again to the team, to the community, and to the state.
On July 4th, 2016, he made a decision that would forever change not only his own life, but the lives of all those with whom he had built this special bond. He decided to leave Oklahoma behind, and start a new life in a new state with new teammates. Maybe he wanted to get out, find himself, you know, West Coast privilege and all those tired tropes. Honestly, I think he just wanted to stop banging his head against Russell Westbrook’s iso-dominant ways.
More than anything, though, I think he wanted to find a sense of “family.” Because maybe he realized he was never going to find it in Oklahoma.
Durant: Gives most of his formative years to organization. Is huge in the community. Helps immensely after tornado damage.— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) February 12, 2017
They say when someone goes low, you should go high. Take the moral high road, etc etc. It would have been easy for the Warriors to get dark about the crowd’s treatment of Durant. Instead, they did what they do best: laugh it off and win basketball games by a whole bunch of points.
For in reality, the scoreboard is the ultimate fact, one that can never be explained away with alternative reasoning.
After the game, Stephen Curry grabbed one of the cupcake shirts, and took it home as a souvenir.
Steph is taking a sweet souvenir from OKC— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 12, 2017
Draymond Green grabbed one as well, and gave his postgame interview wearing it. More than anything, the Warriors bonded over the crowd’s treatment of their new brother, Durant. They came together, and they acted like a family.
All the Warriors are wearing the cupcake shirts OKC fans were wearing pic.twitter.com/juLHyTN4ir— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) February 12, 2017
When Durant first got to the Bay Area, he was asked about the Warriors’ organization. His response was telling, even if people in the media took his words and flung them back at Westbrook as some sort of slight.
“They work together. You hear family a lot. That’s just a word sometimes, but this is really a lifestyle here. You can feel it when you walk in the door, in the practice facility, everybody is just together. That’s something that I can appreciate as a basketball player and someone who values relationships. You can tell that that’s what they stand on, that’s what we stand on. I feel really grateful to play for a team like that and play with a bunch of players who are selfless and enjoy the game in its purest form. They make it about the players, they make it about the environment, so it was really an easy choice.”
Again, his point was that the Warriors are a family, and that’s what he needed and wanted in free agency. It had absolutely nothing to do with OKC, or with Westbrook. He came to the Warriors because they play together, and they play for one another. He wanted to play “selfless,” basketball in its “purest form.” His decision had much less to do with his relationship with the state of Oklahoma — or his basketball relationship with Westbrook — and more to do with the relationships he could envision building with Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, under the tutelage of Steve Kerr.
Amidst a sea of boos — an oceanic front of unpleasantness — the Warriors had Durant’s back. They played like a family, they played together, and they didn’t care about outside noise. The fans could scream and yell about being abandoned, but the Warriors didn’t care.
Eventually, the jeers died down. The Warriors built a big lead. After some back and forth in the third and fourth quarters, where the Thunder tried to trim the Dubs’ lead, Durant finally put the hammer in the coffin with a gorgeous, deep three over Westbrook himself.
It was a fitting end to an emotionally unstable night in Oklahoma filled with anger, uncertainty, clashes between players and crowd members, clashes between former teammates, fans saying disgustingly inappropriate things in Durant’s mother’s face, and finally, an anything-but-ho-hum 130-114 victory for the Warriors.
It was a chance for Durant to see everything that he is not missing in Oklahoma City. It was a chance for the Warriors to take another step in their building process. A chance to show Durant that they care about him.
Durant and his team came out on top. They took all the hatred and vitriol, and brushed it aside en route to a game that was never really that close. They were bigger and better than the noise last night. They were, in all ways, family.