Watching Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant work as teammates, side-by-side, day after day, for the better part of three years, the labor load was as spectacular as the artistry. There was sweat with the magic.
Or, maybe, the sweat was the source of the magic.
“Sometimes, they would go together,” Steve Kerr said Monday, 24 hours before the Warriors faced Durant and the Nets in the season opener. “To watch them both work on their craft is really amazing. I would frequently have our young players paying attention to both Steph and Kevin.”
Durant joined the Warriors back in July 2016, after the franchise laid out its vision while rolling out a red carpet plush enough to hide a bear. His decision, however, came only after realizing Curry was in full-throated endorsement, a superstar with two MVP trophies eager to embrace another superstar with an MVP trophy and four scoring championships.
They would become the most creative and devastating scoring duo in NBA history.
Better than Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, better than Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, much better than James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and better than LeBron James and any of his superstar partners: Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade and Anthony Davis.
As pure scorers, Curry and Durant were superior to Michael Jeffrey Jordan and Scottie Maurice Pippen.
Please let me explain, beginning with knowing a reasonable debate can be made that either is the best scorer in the league.
Curry is the best deep shooter in NBA history -- an assertion not up for rational debate -- and also that exceedingly rare player as deadly without the ball as he is with it. He strikes fear in opponents while approaching midcourt and somehow finds ways to pierce them with stunning efficiency. Steph steals wills. There is no one like him.
Durant is a 7-footer with the handle of a 6-footer and the accuracy of a trained sniper. Too long for small forwards, too quick for power forwards and centers and too smart for those belligerent guards trying to annoy him. KD is that guy that has defenders throwing up their hands after realizing they don’t matter.
“You’d always kind of find yourself in awe of stuff that he could do on the floor,” Curry said. “And I know he's commented about [the same feeling] with me. That was a big part of our success, was kind of feeding off each other and that energy and that pursuit of greatness every day. When you see it up close and personal, you have no choice but to kind of meet that level every day.”
When Curry and Durant were healthy, they terrorized defenses to such a degree that a lethal shooter like Klay Thompson could get ignored. Whenever the Warriors were described as a “Super Team,” Curry and Durant were the primary reason for the designation. Their presence made the Warriors unfair.
Which is why their practice sessions, typically coordinated with assistant coach Bruce “Q” Fraser, were a study in great partnership. They’d take turns draining jump shots around the arc, take turns driving to the basket, take turns dapping each other.
“There's a passion and a work ethic that is kind of mesmerizing when you combine that with the pattern of their routine and the work that they put in day after day after day,” Kerr said. “And they're both so dialed in when they get their workouts in. It's almost a zone. And it explains a lot about their respective success, just the quality and the passion that goes into their work every day.”
The mutual respect that existed between Curry and Durant as competitors, Curry with the Warriors and Durant with the Thunder, evolved into an admiration that benefitted both as teammates. They saw what each other was putting into the job, and both are wired for contest. Any contest.
“Absolutely,” Curry said. “The great ones bring the best out of you, and hopefully I did that for him, in terms of pushing each other. You’re always kind of competing against other teams. But you're kind of competing against yourselves in practice when you’re doing shooting drills and I'm watching him work out with Q and he's watching me. All those three years, there's a lot of that kind of chemistry and camaraderie on the court.”
It showed during games, when Curry and Durant were able to develop a synergy that allowed them to read each other. One seemed to know when the other needed to get greedy. One seemed to understand when the other was ready for a dazzling scoring run.
Kobe was an artist, Shaq was not. Michael went on dazzling scoring runs, Scottie rarely did. Kareem was a scorer, Magic a facilitator. The Beard is a brilliant scorer, Russ a volume shooter. LeBron would be the first to admit he can score but that’s not his game.
That’s for Steph and KD. It’s what they do. It’s what they did as teammates for three memorable seasons that left the NBA -- and certainly fans following the Warriors -- with the kind of memories that might never be seen again.