Kevin Durant succeeded with the Warriors, even if that was not sufficiently conveyed by some of his words in a lengthy Wall Street Journal article published this week.
KD came to the Bay Area to win, and he earned two NBA championships.
He came to shine, and he added two Finals MVP trophies to his collection of individual awards.
He came to broaden his horizons, and he did, riding highs and enduring lows, emerging three years later with an enlarged social platform, a bigger philanthropical footprint and a stronger sense of his purpose beyond basketball.
Yet KD’s words in WSJ magazine are now being analyzed for ulterior messages when his most compelling comment was 1,000 ways true and as unambiguous as a power drill.
“I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted,” he told WSJ Magazine. “But I’ll never be one of those guys.”
Durant can flash back on those July 2016 days in The Hamptons when he met with a procession of six teams seeking his services. The incumbent Thunder, the Warriors, the Clippers, the Spurs, the Celtics and the Heat -- in that order -- each made their pitch over a three-day span.
On the fourth day, Durant chose the Warriors, largely because of the camaraderie he felt in the presence of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson.
“They all walked in and it looked like they were holding hands,” Durant said a few days after agreeing to join the Warriors. “I could tell they enjoyed being around each other.”
They did. They still do, even though Iguodala was traded to Memphis in July. Those four were the cornerstones of the 2015 championship team, giving the franchise its first title in 40 years.
Durant had seen the 2015-16 Warriors in his nightmares. They overcame a three-games-to-one series deficit to take out his Oklahoma City team in the Western Conference Finals. There was reason to believe OKC’s ceiling was only as high as Russell Westbrook would allow -- regardless of how KD’s magnificence.
Yet even as he chose the Warriors, KD knew he’d never be “one of those guys.” He wasn’t drafted by the Warriors, as were Curry, Thompson and Green, nor was he the galvanizing force of their first championship in two generations, as Iguodala had been.
Curry and his personal journey accompanied, step by halting step, the cellar-to-penthouse rise of the Warriors. DNA doesn’t lie, and within that of this franchise is Curry’s blood and sweat. He is, and always will be, No. 1 in the hearts of the fan base. KD is smart enough to realize no new guy, no matter how fabulous, was not going displace Curry’s status.
The best KD could reasonably expect from the Bay Area was love, appreciation and respect. He got all three.
The best KD could be for the Warriors was The Difference. He was that from first game to last.
But the family vibe he felt three summers ago had faded. It was there in Year 1, a little less present in Year 2 and rarely surfaced last season.
During KD’s three seasons as a Warrior, his personal life changed at a slower pace than that of most of his teammates. The Curry family expanded from three to five. Iguodala got married. Green was devoting more time to fatherhood and a serious relationship, even moving away from a home with a view of the bay to one in the more isolated suburbs.
Green, so close to KD in Year 1, was much closer last season to first-year Warrior DeMarcus Cousins. Indeed, they were neighbors in Contra Costa county.
Durant, by contrast, had moved to a San Francisco high rise, the only member of the team residing on that side of the bay. He was, in his final season as a Warrior, the only member of The Hamptons 5 with a bridge separating him from the others.
Though the Warriors wanted to retain Durant -- team CEO Joe Lacob continues to grapple with the reasons behind his departure -- KD believed his time in the Bay Area had passed.
Here is how Durant described his emotions after spending time with the Warriors in The Hamptons: “I felt as comfortable as I’ve ever felt. It was authentic, it was real, and it was feelings I couldn’t ignore.”
Here is how KD described his current reality to the WSJ: “As time went on, I started to realize I’m just different from the rest of the guys. It’s not a bad thing. Just my circumstances and how I came up in the league. And on top of that, the media always looked at it like KD and the Warriors.
"So, it’s like nobody could get a full acceptance of me there.”
Durant is different from most. He’s thoughtful, sometimes to a fault. He feels internal pressures few can comprehend. He craves “full acceptance,” which he realized had diminished over time.
For as much has KD accomplished as a Warrior, he wanted something more, something no longer was there to be had. It slipped away from here in the Bay Area, so he left in hopes of finding it elsewhere.