Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors in free agency back in 2019, but due to his torn Achilles tendon and the COVID-19 pandemic, it was going on two years since he had returned to the Bay Area for a game. But on Saturday night he was back, as he led his Brooklyn Nets into town for a marquee matchup.
With no crowd in attendance the moment wasn’t quite as memorable, but the Warriors still did their best to make it special by honoring Durant with a tribute video in the first quarter. The front office was on hand to give him a standing ovation per Anthony Slater of The Athletic, and Durant acknowledged the gesture.
The minute-long video features Durant highlights with voice overs from head coach Steve Kerr and announcers. It ends with a clip from Durant’s speech after winning the 2017 title. the first of two he helped the Warriors capture. During his three seasons with the Warriors, Durant averaged 25.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists, while shooting 52.4 percent from the field. And in addition to his two rings, he also won two Finals MVP awards.
But while Durant finally won a couple of titles, the success clearly didn’t bring him everything he was searching for. The manner of his arrival in Golden State meant he was never fully accepted into the Warriors’ culture, and never fully respected by fans and others around the league.
No one denied his greatness, and the Warriors might not have won those titles in 2017 and 2018 without him, but those teams and seasons have a unique legacy. And by the time the summer of 2019 rolled around, it was clear that the experiment was over and he was ready to go his own way.