The biggest prize of the 2016 NBA free agency has landed. Former Oklahoma City Thunder Small Forward Kevin Durant is joining the Golden State Warriors for the 2016-2017 season.
Durant will sign a two-year $54 million deal with a player option after the first season. Durant made his announcement Monday through The Players Tribune, where Durant is a partial owner.
“This has been by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional life” Durant said.
Durant, who turns 28 this September, spent the first nine seasons of his stellar career with the Thunder. Throughout his career, Durant has averaged 27.4 points per game, more than any other active player in the NBA and the third most in NBA history. Durant also won the 2014 NBA MVP award.
Now Durant moves on from the Thunder to join the Warriors who have the reigning MVP winner in Stephen Curry, went to back-to-back NBA Finals, has two of the most prolific three-point shooters in the history of basketball, and just finished with the greatest regular season record of all time.
The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors faced Durant and the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals this past season. In that matchup the Warriors had their backs against the wall down three games to one before rallying to three straight victories and ruining Durant’s hopes at a rematch against LeBron James in the NBA Finals where they met in 2012.
“I will miss Oklahoma City, and the role I have had in building this remarkable team,” Durant said. “They have always had my back unconditionally, and I cannot be more grateful for what they have meant to my family and to me.”
The Boston Celtics also made a strong run at Durant. They sold the city of Boston using the New England Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady at the meeting. The Celtics have a strong young core of players and just signed Center Al Horford to a 4-year $113 million contract. Horford was also a player who Durant himself tried to recruit over to Oklahoma City.
The Warriors pitch also featured a local star in Jerry West– You know, the guy who the NBA logo is made after. Tim Kawakami reported that West, a Warriors executive board member, gave Durant a call during the team’s meeting with the star free agent. The Warriors pitched the idea of building a dynasty and the importance of having a winning culture and the players around you to help.
As James and the Cavaliers will look to defending their championship, assuming James is returning to Cleveland. If the Cavaliers and Warriors face each other in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season, and both teams are at healthy, expect the Warriors to be heavy favorites once again.
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