Kevin Durant finally did it. The ten-season veteran finally won a ring when the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games, winning Game 5 at home 129-120. Along with his first ring, Durant picked up his first Finals MVP title, a well deserved honor after the show he put on during the season (we’ll get to those stats a bit later).
It hasn’t been an easy journey for the All-Star, and the critics began chirping about Durant selling out when he joined the Warriors even before he put on a Golden State jersey. But right now, that doesn’t matter. Kevin Durant is an NBA Champion. He’s a Finals MVP. He is one of the greatest player of his era. This is how he got there.
Even before Durant made it to Texas he put the world on notice during the McDonald’s All American game, scoring 25 points in only 18 minutes on the court. So he had a lot to live up to, and boy did he. It’s hard to pick a single moment from his one year at Texas, so we decided to go with the whole season as his one shining moment. Durant averaged 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals, winning AP Player of the Year, the Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy.
Rookie of the Year
KD was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, right behind Greg Oden who went to the Trail Blazers. Once again, after his single season greatness at Texas, it was no surprise that Durant dominated from the start. He began his career in the NBA in Seattle, averaging 20.3 PPG, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists winning Rookie of the Year honors.
On January 17, 2014, Kevin Durant scored a career high 54 points against what would become his next team, the Warriors. That day Durant made 19-28 field goals, including five triples, and was 11-13 from the line. He added four rebounds and six assists in the win in front of the home crowd. The 54 points are still the most the champion has scored in a game.
Why choose one scoring title when KD has four? Durant was scoring champion of the league in 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2013-14, giving it up that single season to Carmelo Anthony. He averaged 30.15, 27.71, 28.03 and 32.01 PPG respectively.
First trip to the Finals
Defense may win championships, but experience definitely helps. Durant got his first chance to get Finals experience during the shortened 2011-12 season. The Thunder had to come back from a 2-0 deficit against the San Antonio Spurs during the Western Conference Finals, then won four to reach the Finals and face the Heat. The Heat, led by LeBron James and the Big 3, were too experienced for the youthful Thunder, who lost the series 4-1. It was LeBron’s first ring (which may make the 4-1 win over the Cavs just a bit sweeter).
The Real MVP
This has to be one of the top three moments of Durant’s career, and likely the most emotional. KD won the regular season MVP title for the 2013-14 season, scoring 32.0 PPG with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the year. But it’s not necessarily the award that made this moment so special, it was the speech he made when accepting the award, thanking his teammates and one special person. Durant dedicated a large part of his speech to his mother, “you’re the real MVP.”
Watch Durant’s emotional speech:
20+ point game streak
Towards the beginning of the 2016 season, Kevin Durant’s streak of 20+ point games came to an end after 72 games, nearly a whole season. His 72 games with 20+ points were good enough to tie Michael Jordan’s streak and land Durant in the fourth spot all time. The three longer streaks belong to Wilt Chamberlain, who had two, and Oscar Robertson.
Everyone held their breath during the beginning of the 2016 offseason, waiting to hear where Kevin Durant will play during the next season. We all know it couldn’t have been easy, disappointing fans regardless of his decision. Unlike LeBron James, Durant did not hold a full show to announce where he will play. Instead, he published “My Next Chapter” on Derek Jeter’s The Players’ Tribune, explaining why he chose to leave Oklahoma City and play for the Warriors. It was a decision may criticized, but look at how it ended.
The 2017 Finals
We knew during the entire 2016-17 season that the Golden State Warriors were something special. The team finished the regular season first in the West with a 67-15 record. They swept their way through the Playoffs all the way to the Finals where, again, Durant faced LeBron James. During the five games, Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
Of course it all came down to Game 5. Win and Durant has it all, lose and the Golden State Warriors may experience deja vu. Cleveland took an early lead, but Golden State came roaring back. Every time the Cavaliers got close, Durant nailed a clutch three, or threw down a crowd-pleasing dunk. Durant led the team with 39 points in 40 minutes, including five triples and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line. He finally won a ring and snagged a Finals MVP title to go along with it.