When Kevin Durant chose to come to the Warriors, he chose to join an established team and locker room culture. This core — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green — had come up together, grown together, and there was already a way things were done, a way they played the game, a culture that was not going to change and bend to Durant (as opposed to how things went in, say, Brooklyn).
From the start, that seemed to lead to some friction, some culture clash.
A new book by Ethan Strauss, “The Victory Machine,” created a stir on NBA Twitter and social media this week when an excerpt was published that described an exchange between Durant and Strauss from January of 2019 after Straus said in an article that the Warriors were running plays and making decisions to make Durant happy first:
“I tried to make a few points, saying I didn’t begrudge him for having leverage with his contract, and insisted that I had good reason to write what I wrote. KD wasn’t impressed and accused me of trying to “rile up Steph’s fans.”
He expressed that this was a constant theme in the Bay. All of us local guys just wanted to kiss Steph’s a– at his expense. This was KD’s consistent lament. He would frequently squabble in direct-message conversations with the Warriors fans of Twitter, frequently accusing them of favoring Steph at his expense.
This has led to hot takes everywhere, especially all over the ESPN talking head shows. If you care about such things, it’s easy to find out what they said on air.
I will make two points.
First, Durant was the best player on that team. Curry is unquestionably an elite, top-five NBA player whose gravity is what the Warriors built their offense around. Curry is a franchise-changing player. Durant was better, he could get buckets as well or better than Curry, and was a significantly better defender. Durant was the two-time Finals MVP for a reason, when the opposing defenses were elite and could interrupt the Warriors offense, Durant was the guy who could just get his shot one-on-one and make it work. Durant, before his injury, was the best player on the face of the earth (for my money).
Second, that was Curry’s team, culture, and city — and that was not changing. Durant had to know that walking in the door. Durant is too smart not to have known it, and chaffing against it only reinforced the image some want to give him of a whiner. Fair or not. Curry was drafted by the Warriors, developed with the Warriors, the fans grew attached to him through that process, and he gave back to the community ingratiating himself. Curry is a likable guy, someone whose public image is approachable and down to earth. Curry also won, both MVPs and a ring, with an entertaining team, all before KD arrived. Curry was always going to be the fan favorite. Always. And in the locker room, he helped set the tone long before the Warriors core got together with Durant in the Hamptons to convince him to come West.
Did it eat at Durant that some fans would never recognize him as the best player on that team? Maybe, I am not psychic and I’m not going to guess what KD is thinking. For some fans, Durant was always going to be the guy who parachuted in. How unbelievable he was as a player would never change those minds.
What should you take away from all this? It’s a book worth reading.
I'm biased but I think this trailer for The Victory Machine kicks ass pic.twitter.com/Wm8TbGHw0D
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) April 13, 2020