Kevin Durant realized he needed the Golden State Warriors’ stable of talent around him to win a championship. As the NBA Finals MVP authored his masterpiece on Monday night, another mass realization gripped the basketball world. The Warriors needed Durant to win a championship.
Durant capped a stellar five-game stretch by scoring 39 points, going 14-for-20 from the floor, including 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. He also made all six of his free-throws for good measure.
Set some of the hyperbole aside. Durant did not usurp the torch of world’s best basketball player from LeBron James. But he did burn just as bright. When one torch lights another, it still burns just as bright. LeBron was spectacular and no signs of dimming. The best player on the planet pushed Durant and the Warriors to greatness and they answered the call.
Jumping from Oklahoma City to Oakland was a controversial move that opened Durant to criticism. But what those critiques miss, it turns out, is that the Warriors team, as constituted, would not have beaten these Cavaliers. Slaying the two-headed monster of James and Kyrie Irving requires a mighty sword Harrison Barnes is not capable of wielding.
For the series, Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists on 56 percent shooting. The entire premise that he was going to ride someone else’s coattails to the promised land was flawed. Durant did not blend in, he stood out. When the Warriors needed a big bucket, they turned to him, not the two-time MVP Stephen Curry.
Durant was the focal point, the engine of a brutal, soul-crushing team. He didn’t join a great team. He made a great team legendary. He didn’t add a post-script to someone else’s legacy, he wrote his own.
Yes, Durant needed the Warriors badly. They needed him even more.