When Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors, it was one of the most significant player moves in NBA history. But as former Warriors executive Bob Myers recalled recently, it never would have happened without the unselfish mindset of franchise player Stephen Curry.
“I remember when we lost Game 7 in Oakland (in the 2016 finals), the next morning we had exit interviews,” Myers said. “So it’s me at my desk and across from me each player would come in individually. And we had just lost I suppose at 8 o’clock the night before. So this is probably 12-14 hours removed from a Game 7 home loss in the NBA Finals, which is probably the most pain or closest to the summit you can get without reaching it. … And I remember Curry coming in and looking at him and we were talking about the season and the team.
“At the end of it, I said, ‘Hey, what if Durant wanted to come? … If Durant wants to meet with us, if he would be willing to or if he’s taking meetings, what do you think on that?’ And I was looking at his body language. Because there’s a way to say yes and no. He could’ve looked at the floor and said, ‘Yeah, I mean, whatever you want if you want me to.’ That’s a no, right? That’s a no. That’s ‘I don’t want this.’ Could’ve just said, ‘No way, this is my team, we just lost, I’m not sharing the spotlight with anybody.’ But the beauty of Curry is he looks me in the eye, he says, ‘You think he’d want to come here?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but if he takes meetings, where are we at with it if it’s a possibility?’
“And he looks me in the eye, says, ‘Yeah, for sure!’ That’s a lens into Curry’s selflessness, because it’s his team, it’s his thing. But many people would have said no, very quietly, and it would’ve never happened. I think the reason why, for me, I could’ve thought, if Durant five days later says, ‘I’m taking meetings, you’re a team we want to meet with,’ then going there without having that conversation with Curry, it’s ridiculous. It’s stupid. These are the types of conversations that are meaningful that maybe people don’t quite get.”
As Myers said, the Warriors were coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. After setting a regular season record with 73 victories, Golden State led Cleveland 3-1 in the championship series but lost three in a row to the Cavs. To this day, the Warriors remain the only team to blow such a lead to eventually lose in the NBA Finals.
In the aftermath, Myers held that conversation with Curry about joining forces with Durant, who was about to become a free agent after playing his first nine NBA seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise.
Durant did indeed sign with the Warriors in early July of that offseason. Though he did receive some harsh criticism for joining a loaded team, Durant and the Warriors got all they could have wanted from their partnership.
Golden State proceeded to win back-to-back NBA titles in 2017 and 2018, with Durant winning Finals MVP both times. Capturing three titles in four seasons (2015 being the other) cemented the Warriors as one of the league’s best recent dynasties.
But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. After the Warriors failed in their attempt for a third straight title by losing to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant joined the Brooklyn Nets and then sat out the 2019-20 season because of an Achilles injury.
The 35-year-old hasn’t advanced as far as a conference finals since leaving Golden State. The Warriors have fared better, adding the 2022 NBA title to their trophy case, with Curry named Finals MVP for the first time.
Durant is now back in the Western Conference with the Phoenix Suns, who, along with the Warriors, are considered among the contenders for the 2024 NBA title. A possible playoff showdown between Durant and Curry as former teammates is certainly on the table and undoubtedly would be one of the most anticipated series in NBA history.