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Par for the Course
Fourth of July Fireworks
When Kevin Durant announced to the world that he was leaving Oklahoma City to join the two-time defending Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors on Monday, July 4, 2016 he set off a chain of social media fireworks the likes of which had not been seen since LeBron James took his "talents" to South Beach. People ranging from Stephen A. Smith to the local Oakland barber chimed in and gave their thoughts on what the move meant for Kevin, the Golden State Warriors and the National Basketball Association. Warriors fans, or Dub Nation as they are affectionately known, began planning yet another parade in June 2017, all the while forgetting just that quickly that the parade they planned for June 2016 never happened because the aforementioned James came in and robbed them of not only the last three games of the NBA Finals, but a chance to cap a historic 73-9 regular season with a championship. Back-to-back championships, mind you.
And speaking of the last three games...
The Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals over the then defending champion Golden State Warriors. Everything was going right for the Thunder. They controlled the tempo, they controlled Draymond Green and they controlled the Splash Brothers (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson). It was a perfect storm for Oklahoma City. Many have forgotten, but being the "historian" I am, I remember that it was this same team that forced the Golden State Warriors to drop their mascot 'Thunder' so they could adopt that name for their team...and now, in the throws of the playoffs, this team was about to take what appeared to be rightfully theirs and set up a date with the two-time defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers...
...but then it all changed...
...the Golden State Warriors woke up and started playing basketball. Little by little, big shot after big shot they crawled back into the game, the series and eventually the NBA Finals. It was as much of a flexing of their (championship) muscle as it was the Oklahoma City Thunder reverting back to the team that lost 14 games after leading entering the fourth quarter during the regular season. Some may call it a choke job, but those that do simply do not know what a choke job is.
Allow me, if you will, to explain.
According to Wikipedia, a choke is the failure of an athlete or an athletic team to win a game or tournament when the player or team had been strongly favored to win or had squandered a large lead in the late stages of the event. Oklahoma City was not favored over Golden State; even after they held a 3-1 series lead. In addition, any lead they held in the fourth quarter was not necessarily "large". As a matter of fact, based on the way the Warriors played this past season I am not comfortable saying any deficit they were in was large.
So in essence, the Oklahoma City Thunder as a whole did not choke. They did what they always do; just not be quite as good when they need to be. And that, my friends, brings me to the reason for the early morning fireworks show on that fateful day in July; Mr. Kevin Durant.
The Spider with no bite
Kevin Durant (a.k.a. KD and/or Durantula) is unequivocally one of the best players in the game today, and by best I mean Top 3. You can place the players you want to in any one of those slots and have a spirited discussion behind it, but if you do not have him in one of the top three spots you have nothing to talk about. Period. With that being said, Kevin Durant has never shown he can put a team on his back and carry them to that all important victory. He couldn't do it in the regular season (year after year) and he could not do it in this years Western Conference Finals; even when he was forty-eight basketball minutes away from being able to do so; AND HE HAD THREE SEPERATE CHANCES TO DO IT!! When it matters most he is as unproven as an infant who just started potty training last week is without a diaper on.
But with his "I wanna be saved" shout out to the Golden State Warriors, he is now in the position of not having to be proven because he has a plethora of established locker room veterans who will pick up the slack and allow him to shoot shots from all over the place and be the happy-go-lucky KD we all love. A win by the Golden State Warriors means Kevin Durant will be part of a championship team and a loss means he will be part of a team that came up just short; a position he is unfortunately used to being in. Either way, he won't be the reason they are champions or chumps and based on his career path thus far he would not have it any other way.