In case you haven’t heard, former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant shocked the world on July 4 when he announced that he would be leaving Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors. Durant believes that he’ll have a better shot at winning his first-ever NBA championship by joining the Warriors who have reached each of the last two NBA Finals.
— The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune) July 4, 2016
As a free agent, Kevin was well within his rights to leave the Thunder and join the Warriors, but Durant’s been met with an enormous amount of backlash for making a business decision. It’s the same type of criticisms that LeBron James received when he made the decision to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010.
NBA fans have had it ingrained in their brains that stars like Durant aren’t supposed to leave during free agency. After all, players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Magic Johnson never played for more than one team during their careers and it helped to build their legacies into what they are today.
That being said, the beauty of free agency gives players like Kevin Durant the option of chasing a championship ring. It might be relatively unusual for superstars to leave the place where they were drafted, but it’s not unheard of. Besides LeBron and Durant, Shaquille O’Neal left the Orlando Magic and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers back in 1996 and it did nothing to tarnish his legacy.
Despite these facts, former NBA players Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller, both current NBA analysts for TNT, sent some serious vitriol towards Durant for his decision to leave the Thunder for Golden State.
Barkley made an appearance on ESPN’s Mike and Mike radio show and had this to say about Kevin Durant.
“I got traded to Phoenix. They wasn’t a super team. They wasn’t even a good team when I got there, first and foremost. I got traded for five guys to go to Phoenix, so they weren’t a super team. And I got traded to Houston. I never wanted to leave Phoenix.
“That’s my problem. Listen, if you get traded, you get traded. But if you all get together and say, ‘Let’s dominate the league,’ and try to cheat your way to a championship […] First of all, don’t you want to compete? There is something about competition. I would love to go back in my day and just, ‘Hey, let me call Michael Jordan and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and let’s just dominate the NBA.’ But, like, there is some part of this that’s really good competition.”
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) July 6, 2016
That’s some pretty serious venom coming from a guy who never won a ring. It’s possible that Barkley would have as much clout as a Jordan, Bird, or Magic had he done what Kevin Durant is doing and chased a ring, but we’ll never know because he wasn’t able to accomplish that feat. Now Barkley’s known as one of the greatest players in NBA history who has never won a championship. That’s not exactly the best recognition in the world.
Miller is yet another player that is known by that same distinction of having never won a ring, and he took his turn at Kevin Durant in an essay posted on Bleacher Report.
“It’s a bad look for the league once again. Between the huge signings of mediocre players and now KD defecting to the Warriors, there are really only five or six teams you are interested in watching—and only three of those have a real shot to win the championship. It’s going to be a boring season unless the Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks or Boston Celtics are on TNT or ESPN every week.”
Reggie Miller rips Kevin Durant’s decision to leave OKC in pursuit of ‘cheap jewelry’ https://t.co/hjdOEANMnp
— For The Win (@ForTheWin) July 6, 2016
Miller would go on to say that Kevin Durant is chasing “cheap jewelry” by joining the Golden State Warriors. While that may be true in the eyes of many, how much more revered would Miller be if he had won a championship? Even if he would’ve gone elsewhere to do it, Miller’s legacy could be bigger today than it is had he won a ring, but we’ll never know. Kevin Durant doesn’t want to be in the same position when he walks away from the game.
Barkley and Miller have the right to their opinions, after all it’s their job to give it, but Kevin Durant has his eyes on an NBA title and that’s something that neither guy was able to accomplish.
[Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]