The Warriors finished off the Cavaliers in Game 5 to capture their second NBA championship in three years. Kevin Durant was named Finals MVP.
USA TODAY Sports
OAKLAND – Some 17 years before Kevin Durant finally became an NBA champion – a Finals MVP no less for this Golden State Warriors team that fulfilled its super team destiny over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night – he almost quit.
The thought crossed his middle school mind at different times over the span of two years, when the gangly kid from Seat Pleasant, Md. grew so tired of all those grueling training sessions with his Godfather, Taras “Stink” Brown, that he wondered if it was all worth it. He had been sleeping and studying in the Seat Pleasant Recreation Center corners during those days, doing all he could to take his game to another level and gain the kind of notice from elite high school coaches in the area that was curiously missing.
“As a kid, you want to play and have fun and go through things as a regular kid,” he told me in 2012. “But I wasn’t. I was always in the gym, always training. I was running hills, doing 100 laps a day. Basketball was the fun part. I barely touched the ball, but had the push-ups and the sit-ups — all of it. I was like, ‘Why do I have to go through this boot camp when I see the other guys not working as hard as me and they’re out there playing well on the AAU circuit?’ They’ve got high schools looking at them, private schools, and it wasn’t like that for me.”
So, he told Brown, he was done.
“(Brown) said, ‘If you can’t play basketball, then you ought to be a ballet dancer,’ ” Durant said. “I was like, ‘Nah, man, I can’t do that. I’m just going to quit.’
“He said, ‘Don’t talk to me, don’t come back, unless you want to be a basketball player.’ After a few days, I changed my mind. My mom was on top of me, too, and I got through it.”
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Basketball has always been the fun part for Durant. That was true then, and it was true last summer when he kept looking out West and noticing the joy that emanated from this hoops world that Bob Myers, Steve Kerr, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and the rest of the Warriors created.
There was no my-turn-your-turn approach like he’d had for so many years in Oklahoma City. There was a selfless culture in place that was unlike most you’ll find in the NBA. There was a chance to start a new chapter and, if all went according to their grand plan, maybe even be part of a dynasty one day. And for a 28-year-old who once wondered if he’d ever get to play in college, and who always wanted the joy to be a part of this experience, this was the kind of thing he just couldn’t pass up.
“I found that at the beginning of the year when we first went to Vancouver in the first preseason game, just the camaraderie, just the togetherness of the whole organization,” said Durant, who averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, and one steal per game in the Finals. “That’s what it was about. We just kept — I kept building on that from day one. So that’s what I found when I came here, and I definitely appreciate just the type of people we have here from the top to bottom. So a championship is just a cherry on top.”
No matter how mad it might make all those fans who branded him a ring-chaser.
“Yeah, I hear all the narratives throughout the season that I was joining, I was hopping on bandwagons, I was letting everybody else do the work,” Durant said. “But then that was far from the truth. I came in and tried to help my team. Like I said, tried to be myself, be aggressive and sacrifice as well.”
Now, just like back then, the work was worth it in the end.
“I remember the first day of camp and I walk into camp, and I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what these guys were like on the court and how they came in and worked,” Durant said. “I didn’t know anything about the team. I just wanted to come in there and just be me. And I did that from day one, and I just tried to stay with that. I had my lows in the season where I was beating myself up, where I was struggling throughout the year, but the great part about it is I’ll get a tap on the head from Steph or a Draymond (Green) or — I can remember when we were in Sacramento and we just lost to Memphis, we gave up the lead, we were up 20 — I’m sure you guys remember — Draymond pulled me aside, we were having dinner the next night in Sacramento, and he told me to be myself. Don’t worry about anything, just be you, keep working, everything’s going to come around.”
In other words, don’t quit.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick on Twitter @Sam_Amick.