As I watched Kevin Durant burn down the entire city of Cleveland for the second straight NBA Finals, the lyrics from a song featured on Marvel’s “Black Panther” film rose up in my heart. You may be familiar with the tune? It’s entitled “Pray For Me” by Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd.
Here’s an excerpt from the glorious ode to the fury, and loneliness, of fighting enemies that are both external, and internal.
I’m always ready for a war again
Go down that road again
It’s all the same
I’m always ready to take a life again
You know I’ll ride again
It’s all the same (ooh, ooh, ooh)
Tell me who’s gon’ save me from myself
When this life is all I know
Tell me who’s gon’ save me from this hell
Without you, I’m all alone
I can’t help but imagine Kevin Durant, alone in the locker room, moments before last night’s 110-102 Game 3 victory, whispering these lyrics to a basketball he’s holding inches from his face. I wonder if he remembers all the hard times and criticism he’s absorbed. I wonder if he meditates on what he’s sacrificed to join the the Golden State Warriors.
Durant sacrificed his public reputation, when he had the wisdom and gumption to abandon the smoking wreckage of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise to humbly join the Golden Empire. In doing so, he lost the respect of irrelevant jabronis worldwide. He has been smeared as a coward, snake, cupcake, traitor, and punk by those who would literally beg to have him on their franchise.
Durant also ceded much individual glory, as he joined three other All-Stars in their prime. There’s less shot attempts, less SportsCenter highlights, less money. Durant will probably never win regular season MVP again, as voters will look at the help around him and dismiss his candidacy, despite his standing as a top 3 player.
Durant was martyred for his desire to play basketball the right way, with a selfless point guard, and a coach who actually knows what the hell he’s doing. The world’s mocking derision, fueled by bitterness and envy, killed the Kevin Durant we knew from OKC.
That Durant died and vanished into The Splash, the impact of his sacrifice rippling across the surface of that deep blue water in the Bay.
Now, there is a new #35. This KD has ascended from the deep swell, risen from the cold Splash as a brand new creature: “The SlimVP”. He is now liberated; unfettered by the hateful cries of the damned who feared his coming. He has a new family that protects and serves him: the Brothers of Splash.
On a night where his brothers struggled to put the ball in the basket, a gold-blooded Durant delivered an all-time great performance to lift them up. The Warriors are one game away from back-to-back championships, and Durant’s 43 point, 13 rebound, 7 assist performance in Game 3 is a major reason why.
He is without a doubt, your Warriors Wonder for Game 3 of the 2018 Finals.
The nuclear warhead that is Klay Thompson made one of his goofy stabs at humor as he walked through the bowels of the silenced Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland last night. “De-Ja-Vu” he bellowed. “Starrin’ K-D!”.
Durant has owned the Cavaliers in the Finals since he’s joined the Warriors. Every defender they throw at him he destroys with cold calculation and spectacular shot making. Last year, he averaged 35 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists on Cleveland in the championship round.
The Cavaliers had an entire year and 10,000 trades to fix their roster to solve that problem. Nothing has changed. In these current Finals, the SlimVP is averaging 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists against them.
Durant shot 15-of-23 from the field last night, drilling 6-of-9 from three point range.
Per NBA.com, Durant was 7-for-13 shooting from the field with a defender between 0 and 4 feet away from him. Those shots are classified as “contested”. On shots that he held the ball for 6 seconds or longer. he was 5-of-10 from the field (3-of-5 from the arc).
RUH ROH! Durant figured out the balance between being a cog in the Warriors motion offense, and being a terrifying isolation scorer when the system bogged down. On an evening where no other Warrior scored more than 11 points, Durant carried the franchise on his back in the arena that hates the Warriors the most.
He is everything we prayed Harrison Barnes would be, and more.
Oh yeah, he’s also still hitting daggers from the same side of the floor in Game 3’s in Cleveland.
It's like deja vu all over again. #DubNation #NBAFinals pic.twitter.com/tq0KEymHHD— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 7, 2018
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahah. You’re telling me the Cavaliers got hit with the same shot two years in a row, by the same guy, in the same building, in another Game 3? This can’t be true.
Look familiar? pic.twitter.com/JTj7AuBQ5a— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) June 7, 2018
I can only imagine the humor that Coach Steve Kerr’s former teammate and “Space Jam” star Michael Jordan is finding in watching LeBron James lose yet another Finals game to the Golden Empire. LeBron: it’s time to go, buddy. You can’t keep getting clowned in the Finals like this, bruh.
"And I'm accurate homie, like an and-1." - @MistahFAB pic.twitter.com/sHBKTrydXe— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 7, 2018
Remember when an ESPN host named Cari Champion said Kevin Durant didn’t have heart? She was right. He doesn’t. Only a heartless destroyer could continually destroy “The Land” year after year with no regard for human life. Look into his eyes, mere moments after one of the greatest shots in NBA history.
KD. WAS. LOCKED. IN. pic.twitter.com/hOmrTPaEU6— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) June 7, 2018
KD coldly, apathetically strides off the court after drowning an entire franchise. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green bounce around him, howling at the top of their lungs. This is the image of weaponized joy. This is the image of Durant’s baptism by fire come to fruition, surrounded by his brothers.
LeBron, I don’t know if you can see me beyond the low hat brims you don after you take playoff losses. But if you can, would you please help me figure out any more superlatives to throw KD’s way?
Game recognize game. And @KDTrey5 is looking REALLY familiar to @KingJames. pic.twitter.com/k51WutNwo4— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 7, 2018
“Assassin”. Yes, let’s add that to the titles attached to Durant’s name, including the next title I’m sure he’ll be taking very soon: two-time champion.
Who was your Warriors Wonder for Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals?
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I’m a Blog Boy/Girl and I think he played too much iso ball