Kevin Durant’s Decision: A Year Later

Kevin Durant was under major scrutiny last summer for his decision to join the Golden State Warriors. The unexpected move shook up the NBA, made us uneasy, and gave fans something to talk about. We weighed in on the discussion with an article ourselves, giving you 4 Things You Can Learn from Kevin Durant’s Career Move. Now, it’s a year later. Let’s look at how Durant’s decision has played out. 

First of all, he won. 

Kevin Durant chose Golden State for one reason; he wanted to be a champion. If after alienating so many fans and fellow players and receiving so much criticism, he hadn’t won the title, that would have been pretty sad. However, he did exactly what was expected when he joined this team. The career change worked for him. He is a champ.  

Winning is not going to silence the critics, though. Most NBA fans and commentators said that joining the Warriors—a team already playing at an elite level–was the easy way to victory. One former teammate even dissed him for being a “cupcake.” Unless Durant can somehow prove that the Warriors needed him a lot more than it looked like they did, the naysayers are going to continue to call this victory cheap. 

Of course, even if the Warriors were secretly underdogs, Durant would never say so. Alienating his new teammates like that would be beyond stupid. But there is a way that the victory may have been harder-fought than it looked. Kevin Durant was never a bad-boy player. He wasn’t one of those guys everybody loves to hate. No, he was the guy everybody liked and respected, and during the summer of 2016 he suddenly lost that. He spent a season having to tune out a level of noise he’d never had to deal with before. He hasn’t said it bothered him, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t. Not everybody can play through that kind of stress and play well—but he could and he did. 

He won. A year ago, we didn’t know for sure that would happen. The other thing that we know now is that Durant is still glad he made the move. Shortly before his team made the playoffs, he told an interviewer “I made the 100 percent correct decision, win or lose.”  He says he loves his new team, his teammates, and his new city, and has no plans to leave. So, while the detractors may believe he made his decision selfishly, that he cares only about winning, the reality is he would have been glad to be a Warrior even if they hadn’t made the playoffs, let alone won a title. 

Maybe he’s just saying that, it’s impossible to know for sure from the outside, but Kevin Durant wouldn’t be the first person to switch employers because he likes somebody else’s company culture better. The reality is there are two levels of competition in the NBA, just like with any other team sports league; there is the contest on the court, and then there is the contest between teams for the best players. And the Golden State Warriors won that second contest fair and square. They used great scouting to acquire premium talent, like Stephen Curry, Klay Thomson, and Draymond Green, and then they built their group of stars into a team anyone would want to be part of. Other franchises had the same chance, and they didn’t take it, so they didn’t get Durant. 

Last year, we said there were four things you could learn from Kevin Durant’s decision: do what’s best for you; find the best culture; put yourself in a position to succeed; and get to work. A year later, we stand by that. No matter what field you’re in, if you take responsibility for your own decisions, despite what naysayers may think, and you work hard, you’ll reap rewards. 

Knowing what we know now, we can add a few more lessons: be strong enough to ignore the noise and play your best anyway; if you’re going to stir up controversy, make sure you’ll be comfortable with your decision no matter what the outcome; and if you’re in a position to put together a team, make sure you build one that the Kevin Durant’s of your industry will want to join.


The image of Kevin Durant was taken by Christopher Johnson under the Creative Commons 2.0