Kevin Durant is known for two things: being one of the best basketball players of his generation and for being online far too much for his own good. Kevin Durant’s latest feud was with former teammate and current analyst Kendrick Perkins.
The argument showed that Durant is still stung by the criticism he’s received for choosing to sign with the Golden State Warriors four years ago. What caused the two to square off?
The Thunder teams were great but left fans wanting more
Kevin Durant went into the summer of 2016 as one of the most beloved superstars in the league. His Oklahoma City Thunder teams were an important contrast to the emerging player empowerment era which saw the game’s biggest names move teams every few years.
The Thunder were built, not bought. They developed draft picks such as Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka into high-end players that made the small-town franchise a consistent championship contender.
A team that drafts all of these players should have been able to go the NBA Finals on more than one occasion, but the Thunder only got there once, in 2012. This was due to some bad luck — both Durant and Westbrook dealt with injury issues in separate seasons — and some bad decisions from the front office — trading James Harden for Kevin Martin and a first-round pick.
But in 2016, everything was in place for the Thunder to win the Western Conference, and they famously didn’t. Their Western Conference Finals series against the Golden State Warriors was a real fork-in-the-road moment for the NBA. The league would look a lot different now if the results had gone a different way.
The Warriors made history by winning the most regular-season games in NBA history, with 73. But the Thunder’s athleticism and physicality had them on the ropes. Oklahoma City had a 3-1 lead in the series, with two of the remaining games at home. But the Warriors resolved to turn back the tide and win the next three games to get to the Finals, where they would give up a 3-1 lead of their own.
The Thunder had every reason to think that they would have another chance at winning the title in the next year. They never got that chance, because Durant left for the team that ended his previous season.
Does Kevin Durant regret moving to Golden State?
It was a decision that defined the state of the NBA for years to come. Durant interrupted the July 4th plans of many basketball fans to announce that he was signing for the Warriors in free agency.
This choice made everyone who wasn’t a Golden State fan angry. The Warriors had won a title and got to the Finals in the preceding two years. They were a great team without him. For Durant, it was perceived to be a show of weakness from a player of his caliber to join another superstar’s team at this point in his career.
On the court, the transaction worked as well as everyone expected it to. The Warriors won two championships and probably would’ve won a third if not for Durant’s awful Achilles injury. Durant himself won two Finals MVPs. At times, he looked like the best player in the world.
But no one really gave him credit for the victories. The resentment from Durant’s move to the Bay Area maintained for the entirety of Durant’s tenure with the Warriors. A team with Steph Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green should win the championship every year. There was nothing Durant could do to earn the respect of fans who were angry that he was on the team in the first place.
It was clear that this greatly annoyed Durant. In a November game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Durant and Green got into an argument on the bench that ended the two players getting separated as Green shouted that the Warriors didn’t need him to win a title.
After that incident, it was inevitable that Durant would leave. He signed with the Brooklyn Nets last summer in part because he wants to win a title as the main star in order to validate himself in the public eye.
Russell Westbrook’s big night becomes another feud over Kevin Durant’s career
Kevin Durant has been stuck on the sidelines as he recovers from that Achilles tear, but all of that rehab hasn’t stopped him from getting in feuds on social media. He has been known for getting in arguments with random people on the internet for reasons that only he knows.
Durant’s willingness to engage is both impressive and confusing. Players of his stature rarely dish out their thoughts this flagrantly, but all Twitter seems to do for Durant is remind people of why they don’t like him anymore.
The argument was instigated by Russell Westbrook’s first game back in Oklahoma since being traded to the Houston Rockets. A debate over who was the best player in Thunder history caught Durant’s attention when Kendrick Perkins, now an analyst at ESPN, pointed out that KD and Westbrook had the same amount of success in the playoffs without each other’s help:
To which Durant clapped back by reminding everyone that Perkins, the Thunder’s starting center for three and a half years, wasn’t much of a basketball player:
Perkins replied in the only way he could after such a roasting: he revived the festering argument that has followed Durant since 2016:
The conversation evaporated after that. Neither party looked great in the end, but the digital scuffle reconfirmed two things: that Durant will never be able to live down joining Golden State, and that he will always read the comments even if they’re harmful.