Last night, Kevin Durant showed the world just who he was and it demands respect.
Kevin Durant, and the basketball world, had high expectations last night when it was revealed that KD would finally be suiting up for Golden State and testing that right calf that has had him sidelined since the Rockets series in May.
Durant’s night ended in the second quarter when he attempted a crossover move on a Toronto defender and re-aggravated his lower leg injury. It wasn’t the attempted comeback that the world wanted, but for 12 minutes and 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three, he was the KD, and motivation, that Golden State needed to pull out a thrilling 106-105 Game 5 victory and extend the NBA Finals at least one more game.
But despite the thrilling victory, all thoughts were on Durant, the vision of him sitting on the ground and rubbing his Achilles, visibly upset. With the exception of the Raptors fans who classlessly cheered KD’s injury, everyone watching the game cringed and felt terrible about what they had just witnessed.
I once heard someone say that KD didn’t inspire, he’s just got more game than anybody else out there. The latter is true and the first part is a lie.
As evidenced by the double-digit lead Golden State took while Durant was on the court, and the way his team galvanized to pull out another game that they should have lost, it’s clear that KD is now officially an inspirational player.
The fans, media, and opposition have to acknowledge it now.
But, as expected, some are going to play Monday morning QB and question the decision to suit up.
It doesn’t matter why KD decided to come back. He could have packed it in for the season and moved on to whatever destination he chooses next. Anyway you slice it, he was playing with house money. If he didn’t play and Golden State lost, then the narrative that they can win without him is obliterated.
Instead, he decided to be a true Warrior.
He knew that his presence alone would make a difference. Even a compromised Durant on the floor changes everything because of his size, scoring ability and reputation. He not only showed up, he brought The Easy Money Sniper rep along for the ride as well.
Even his mama didn’t want to hear no mess about her son.
Unfortunately, the basketball Gods were only willing to pump a small breath of life into the Warriors. It was almost like a tease. A cruel joke. To watch Durant performing so effectively one minute and then tumbling to the ground the next; it was a seismic shift of emotion for all Warriors fans.
The KD critics often knock him for bouncing on OKC and joining a Golden State squad that already had a championship and won an NBA record 73 games. That can always be debated, but he did get two rings out of it. Maybe three, if Golden State can find a way to win two games in a row against the Raptors, who fell two points short of winning the first title in franchise history last night at home.
The critics say KD doesn’t have a signature moment. The many daggers against LeBron in the previous two NBA Finals don’t equal that one clip the defines a player in the video and social media realms.
KD had his moment last night. If the Golden State Warriors come back to win the title, no one will say they did it without KD. They will look back to Game 5, when he could have taken care of himself and packed it in for the summer, but instead produced one of the most selfless and courageous moments in NBA Finals history.
His legacy is secure.