We will always wonder why Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors. Even if he flat out says the reason why, there will still always be speculation. Many people wonder how much of a role Draymond Green played in his departure, or how much of a role Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson played. However, did LeBron James actually play a role?
Kevin Durant won two championships with the Golden State Warriors
After spending nine seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant joined the Golden State Warriors in 2016-17.
The Warriors had just won 73 games the season before, and had made it to back-to-back NBA Finals. So, together, Durant and the Warriors formed probably the most talented team of all-time. In 2016-17, Golden State defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals in five games to win Durant his first title. The Warriors then won a second consecutive championship in 2017-18 over the Cavaliers again.
Durant and Golden State made it back to the NBA Finals in 2018-19, but Durant suffered an injury. The Warriors ultimately lost the series to the Toronto Raptors in six games.
He has discussed why he left the Warriors
There was, and still is, a ton of speculation about why Durant left the Warriors. Here is what Durant said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in September 2019.
“I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted,” Durant said, according to CBS Sports. “But I’ll never be one of those guys. I didn’t get drafted there… Steph Curry, obviously drafted there. Andre Iguodala, won the first Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Green, drafted there. And the rest of the guys kind of rehabilitated their careers there.”
He continued: “As time went on, I started to realize I’m just different from the rest of the guys. It’s not a bad thing. Just my circumstances and how I came up in the league. And on top of that, the media always looked at it like KD and the Warriors. So it’s like nobody could get a full acceptance of me there.”
Another reason Durant has attributed to his departure was the situation that happened between him and Draymond Green. The two of them got into an intense argument on the sidelines of a game during the 2018-19 season. On an episode of First Take, Stephen A. Smith asked Durant if the incident played a role in him leaving. Durant ultimately said, “A little bit, yeah, for sure,” per CBS Sports.
Did LeBron James play a role in Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors?
When looking back at some of the other public conversations about Durant’s departure, one of the more interesting comments actually came from Green. He actually went all the way back to the 2017 NBA Finals.
“In my opinion he got the best of ‘Bron [in the 2017 Finals], like Kevin was f****** rocking,” Green said on the All the Smoke podcast in April 2020, according to CBS Sports. “After that, that was kind of that moment of like, damn Kevin should be the best player in the NBA now because of what he just did to LeBron. And it’s like, you turn on the TV the next day, and the f****** headline is, ‘LeBron James still best player in the world?’… That’s when I kind of felt like it took a turn. And then we came back for the 2017-18 season, and Kevin just wasn’t as happy.”
Green then highlighted the ways Durant showed his unhappiness after that.
“All of a sudden it was kind of just like, ‘F***, why’s Steph shooting this shot?’ or ‘F***, he ain’t pass the ball’ or ‘Why’s Klay shooting this shot?’ or ‘Why he ain’t pass the ball?’ And I’m just sitting there like, ‘Yo, that’s the same Klay and Steph I’ve always played with. Like, they ain’t playing no different than they’ve always played.'”
If what Green said has some validity to it (why wouldn’t it?), LeBron James might have indirectly played a role in Durant leaving Golden State. It appears Durant potentially realized that — to get credit for his titles and to be considered the best in the world — he needed to be the No. 1 guy on a team that was not already extremely stacked before he got there.
So, what did he do? He paired with the guy who helped LeBron James win one of his four titles — Kyrie Irving.
When it’s all said and done, several factors probably played a role in Durant leaving Golden State. However, LeBron James being considered the No. 1 player in the world might have been one of them.