How Kevin Durant Redeemed His Legacy With a Loss Against the Bucks

June 21, 2021by Zach Selwyn0
BasketballFeaturedNBAOpinion Features

How Kevin Durant Redeemed His Legacy With a Loss Against the Bucks

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When Kevin Durant single-handedly took the Brooklyn Nets to the final ticks against Milwaukee this past week, he re-established himself as the best basketball player in the world at the moment. Giannis admitted it after the Bucks’ victory, Steph Curry tweeted it, and even the Inside the NBA guys were gushing over how great KD actually was. Even Stephen A. Smith went so far as to say that Durant was the “Best New York basketball player EVER.”

How Kevin Durant Redeemed His Legacy

The Golden State Years

For the past five years, many in the basketball community have not respected KD, no matter the absurd numbers he hits every year or how many rings he won with the Warriors. The reason why proves simple: Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City to join the already unstoppable Golden State Warriors in 2016. At the time, The Durantula claimed he thought that the Warriors were “underdogs” and that he could come together and help them. I can't be sure whether he actually didn't know that the Golden State Warriors had won the year before and that they came one LeBron chase-down of an Andre Iguodala lay-up from repeating in 2016… but it just seemed so… DESPERATE. The internet called KD a “snake.” A traitor. They blasted him for joining the most superior of super-teams. And they claimed that even if Kevin Durant won titles with the Warriors, that they would remain heavily asterisked, saying that his arrival had made the league unfair. Well, that’s exactly what happened the next two years when KD got his rings in Golden State and NBA analysts quipped that “they didn’t really count.” The press and the fans went hard at KD’s legacy, saying that he could never win it alone and that his move to the Dubs was not only bad for the NBA but bad for his reputation. He lasted one more year, where cameras caught him sparring with Draymond Green. And rumors of tension in the Bay Area surfaced, punctuated by a video of Draymond saying, “That’s why we don’t need you” and Durant responding with “That’s why I’m leaving.” Maybe his teammates had felt that KD’s arrival tarnished their reputations, too? Nobody really knows what goes on inside an NBA locker room. And following the 2019 loss to Toronto, when Durant tore his Achilles in front of the entire world, his run in Golden State had come to an abrupt end.

Better in Brooklyn

What Kevin Durant has done since that injury is nothing short of remarkable. Signing with Brooklyn alongside LeBron’s old partner Kyrie Irving, folks initially dismissed it as another super-team scheme and wondered if he was even capable of coming back after that Achilles tear. Cut to 2020-2021. Kevin Durant played some of the most tremendous basketball on this planet during the Eastern Conference playoffs. When the Nets were healthy, they looked like a virtual lock to run the table and take down the East with ease. They resembled a Biggie Smalls freestyle. Much like the late Brooklyn rapper, they would start running their game, always finding the rhyme and rhythm and landing in the winner’s circle. But then Harden re-aggravated his hamstring. Kyrie landed on Giannis’ foot and turned his ankle. Even with Blake Griffin playing well, the entire Nets’ once-dream-season was now riding on the shoulders of the Slim Reaper.

A Playoff Performance for the Ages

And KD delivered. Game 5 of the Semifinals was quite possibly one of the most unbelievable one-man displays of basketball talent I have ever seen. Durant went for 49 points, had 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, and two blocks. It was easily the most amazing triple-double in NBA playoff history. And even James Harden complimented his running mate, saying that his game has improved so much more from when he was strictly known as a scorer. Harden was right. KD was facilitating the ball, following shots, and looking unstoppable. Game 6 went back to Milwaukee and everybody thought Brooklyn would wrap it up there. If they didn’t, they’d just take it home in the Barclays Center two nights later. Game 6 wasn’t what the Nets were expecting. James Harden returned and eked out 16 points. Durant had 32, but barely anybody else on the team had any numbers. They managed an anemic 89 points and the series became tied 3-3. Game seven, however, was one for the ages. William Hill RF500 - 728x90

Game 7 Heroics

The game stayed close the entire time, and Durant seemed to stay in complete control over certain stretches. But Milwaukee’s confidence kept them in it, and let’s face it, Giannis is an unbelievable basketball player himself. The difference became that, once the 4th quarter started, the Nets had one game plan: Give the ball to KD, let him score. While the Bucks had a similar plan with Giannis, the difference was that Khris Middleton was also willing to take some big shots. Where Harden disappeared late in the game, Middleton did not. And then Kevin Durant was one inch away from becoming the greatest hero New York has seen since Derek Jeter. His shot with 0.1 seconds left over his nemesis P.J. Tucker was magical… But his feet were on the 3-point line. Kevin Durant was one inch away from being so legendary that the NBA may have thrown some red white and blue around that image and re-done the logo. After the game ended in an overtime loss (again, Harden was NOWHERE to be found and KD was exhausted after playing 52 minutes), KD missed a game-tying shot at the buzzer and the great borough of Brooklyn was left exasperated. Afterward, Kevin Durant said, in regards to his game-tying shot, “My big ass foot stepped on the line.” Durant wears a size 18 but has claimed in the past that he wears his shoes ONE SIZE BIGGER THAN HE NEEDS. He says it adds mobility and strength. If this is true, then this one sneaker decision broke the hearts of an entire city.

Legacy Reclaimed

With the game over, Durant sat on the sideline with his head down. A masterful few weeks of basketball, carrying the load of an injured team, had taken its toll. And the weight of pressure from the sports media was now behind him. The tweets started coming in, from Damian Lillard, Steph, and LeBron about how one man has never done so much for one team… and even the media shook their heads in disbelief. The main points to take away from this are: He’s still the best on Earth. He did all of this after returning from a torn Achilles. In a post-game interview, Bucks guard and elite defender P.J. Tucker shared a story from when he was at the University of Texas. A young 11th-grade recruit named Kevin Durant showed up to play with the college players. Tucker said that even as a high school junior, KD was having this way with All-Americans and all-conference NCAA D-1 hoopers. At that time, Tucker called him, “The best he’d ever seen.” KD signed with the Longhorns, went second in the draft a year later, and has been eating good in the NBA ever since. P.J. Tucker was responsible for guarding his old college friend throughout the series. And he was on the receiving end of the game-tying bucket that was an inch away from sending Brooklyn to the ECF. If Durant’s shoe size was a little smaller, Tucker would have been forever immortalized as the guy who KD shot over to win the series. Instead, Milwaukee advanced. And Kevin Durant hung his head low, disappointed with the loss, but no longer disrespected by the league. If Brooklyn can stay healthy next year, they’ll be odds-on favorites to win it all again… but as we know basketball is a game of injuries… and a game of inches. PointsBet - Deposit Bonus Up to $250

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