Death of a Dynasty
I watched Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals in the basement of my parents' home, both happy that LeBron got his first championship and disappointed my Thunder dogs lost so decisively. I'd grown tired of people piling on LeBron, but I was #ThunderUp all the way. I took a picture of my television that night, James Harden and Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant arm-in-arm, and captioned it with the arrogance of a young fan. "Get ready for the next 10 years," I wrote. That trio was going to run the league for the foreseeable future.
4 months later, James Harden was in Houston, a victim of a front-office either too arrogant to recognize his importance, too cheap to pay him what he was worth, or a little bit of both. I texted folks in disbelief, trying to understand how the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, a guy they entrusted with guarding Kobe Bryant in that past year's playoffs, a player who would likely give the Thunder 3 of the league's 10 best players in short order was suddenly dispensable.
The Thunder lost that trade. They'd been looking for their third option ever since.
And now they've lost their first.
I can't blame Kevin for leaving. I can't even blame him for choosing to go to Golden State. He's already established as one of the 30 best players ever, in my estimation. He's won an MVP, he's won scoring titles, he's been to a Finals already. But you can't be legendary without a ring. Give Karl Malone and Charles Barkley all the platitudes you want. They never won the big one. Karl Malone recognized that just a little too late. And so did Chuck, for all the crap he wanted to give Kevin for running to Oakland. Charles's decision to play for Houston at the end of his career was predicated solely by his chase for a title in the twilight of his career. Why are we begrudging Kevin for starting his title chase while he's still in his prime?
My three favorite basketball players happen to be Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant, in that order. I've been fortunate enough to have two of the three play for the same basketball team for the past 7 years, and although the combination's changed, that trend will likely continue for the next few years. But that doesn't make me any less sad that the Thunder Buddies have broken up. Oklahoma City had been blessed with THREE generational talents, plus a guy overqualified to be a team's fourth option, and have absolutely nothing to show for it. You need luck to win a title, sure, but that luck seemed to come in the players they'd been gifted. And they blew it.
Hopefully Kevin wins his title. Hopefully Russy averages a triple-double and wins an MVP this year.
Too bad they weren't able to do it together.