Kevin Durant arrived in the Bay Area as one of the top best players in the NBA searching for greater basketball purpose. He wanted to play a different kind of game then the one he was a part of with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He wanted to be part of a selfless, championship roster that would rack up titles as the greatest collection of talent in NBA history.
Three years later, Durant left the Warriors as a two-time NBA champion and a two-time NBA Finals MVP. Only injuries and exhaustion stopped Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green from winning three titles in a row.
Durant's final year with the Warriors wasn't without drama. Speculation about his future and a public argument with Draymond Green caused the last gasp of the NBA's great goliath to come to a bumpy end. But while some would surmise that Durant and the Warriors ended on bad terms, things couldn't be further from the truth for the Brooklyn Nets star.
"I keep in touch," Durant told NBC Sports Bay Area's Kerith Burke on Dubs Talk when asked about the relationship he has with his former teammates. "I've seen Draymond. We saw each other at a restaurant. It's good to see him and his family. I talked to Steph a couple of times. It's good to see from afar, see that everyone is doing well and realize that these bonds that we created will never be broken no matter what jerseys we have on, no matter what part of the country we all live in. From Shaun [Livingston] to Andre [Iguodala], JaVale [McGee], Steph, Klay, Jordan Bell, Omri [Casspi], Nick Young. When you see guys you won a championship and had long playoff runs with, you have a different connection. I'm very grateful for my time in the Bay Area and I'll always be a Warrior in my heart.
"I'm always going to revert back to those times, especially in this basketball space," Durant continued. "When I'm talking to new guys coming into the league, my experiences in OKC and Golden State, they are always going to be on the top of my mind, especially when I'm in the basketball arena, practice and talking to guys who love the game. On top of that, building friendships with guys like [Warriors director of team operations] Eric Housen, my guy Wilson Taylor in Oklahoma City, Donnie Strack and Drew Yoder, those relationships is what keeps us all together. Because we're always going to talk and check in on each other. When you cross paths with guys and share locker rooms with guys, it doesn't matter where you play. We all just have that common bond of spending time together."
Durant and the Nets will host the Warriors on Tuesday night at Barclays Center to open the 2020-21 NBA season. It will be Durant's first NBA game since rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP has looked explosive during the preseason, and looks to be nearly the same dominant player he was prior to the injury that closed the book on his time with the Warriors.
Durant has been in contact with Klay Thompson, who tore his right Achilles in November, and says the Warriors star is "upbeat" about taking on the rehab he now faces. Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes seeing Durant return will inspire Thompson, and the way Durant has looked early on should give the Warriors faith that Thompson too can return from the devastating injury at full strength.
After 18 months away from the game, Durant will return to the spotlight Tuesday night against Curry and the new-look Warriors.
While he now dons a black and white Nets jersey, there's little doubt that Durant will always be a Warrior no matter where he goes.