Kevin Durant's Warriors tenure earned himself title as Bay Area legend

Kevin Durant's Warriors tenure earned himself title as Bay Area legend

Editor's note: This article originally was published on April 21.

Kevin Durant has had a complicated relationship with acceptance since he descended to the Bay Area. 

Though he won two titles, accomplishing a goal he summoned would end all criticisms of his game, he ultimately never fulfilled his inner purpose of being a part of the Golden State family.

"I’ll never be one of those guys," Durant told the Wall Street Journal last fall. "I didn’t get drafted there. Steph Curry, obviously drafted there. Andre Iguodala, won the first Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Green, drafted there. And the rest of the guys kind of rehabilitated their careers there."

Durant's disposition was evident throughout his Warriors tenure, causing the forward to go through unique measures. Nonetheless, his place in Warriors lore is unquestioned, even if he sometimes doesn't feel the sentiment. 

Durant's arrival to Golden State in July 2016 came under controversial circumstances. Just over a month prior, his Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated by his new employer after leading the series, three-game-to-one.

Criticism of Durant's decision were rampant. How could Durant, a top-three player in the league who built a franchise from the ground, leave and join the team that beat him to form the biggest Goliath at the peak of their run? How could he take the easy route, joining the best offense of the modern era?

It wasn't supposed to be this way, NBA observers thought. A player of Durant's caliber wasn't supposed to jump ship to a superior team, teaming up with two generational shooters and a team on the brink of a title. Never mind that LeBron James had built a superteam in Miami with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade six years prior. Or the Celtics had acquired All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2008, teaming the duo with All-Star small forward Paul Pierce.

The league is built on talent, but the Warriors had too much of it. 

Listen and subscribe to the Runnin' Plays Podcast:

Durant and the Warriors flexed that talent in the first year, winning 67 games and posting a 15-1 record in the playoffs. In the NBA Finals, Durant outplayed James, averaging 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists. A year later, he dominated again, helping the Warriors sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals. 

Along the way, Durant's disposition continued to appear. In his book "Victory Machine," Ethan Strauss reported that Durant frequently direct messaged fans, complaining that fans preferred Curry over him. He also was known to send direct messages to beat writers and radio hosts if he didn't agree with their coverage of him.

But his uncertainty blinded the pursuit of a goal he was already achieving: Being accepted as a Warriors legend. 

Durant earned the distinction by helping the Warriors beat the Cavs in two straight Finals. He earned it by helping the Warriors beat Houston in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, scoring 21 of his team-high 34 points in the second half, helping the Warriors overcome a 15-point deficit. And it was stamped following his departure to Brooklyn when Warriors chairman Joe Lacob stated that no other player will don his number 35. 

[RELATED: Draymond sounds off about how KD handled his free agency]

Even as he rehabs and preps for his Brooklyn debut, he acknowledges his importance to the Bay, signaling recognition of his status in Warriors history. 

"I really felt like I stamped myself as a legend in the Bay. You look at -- I'm not comparing myself to these guys, but guys that won in the Bay like Jerry Rice and Joe Montana," he said on Showtime's "All the Smoke Podcast." "Won back-to-back in the Bay ... it's like s--t, that's forever.

"So I'm really proud of that."

Warriors' Steph Curry 'had major FOMO' when NBA bubble games started

Warriors' Steph Curry 'had major FOMO' when NBA bubble games started

This probably won't come as a surprise to you, but Steph Curry truly enjoys playing basketball.

Crazy, right?

The three-time NBA champion -- who was limited to just five games during the 2019-20 NBA season because of a broken left hand -- misses competing against the best players in the world.

So when the seeding games in the Orlando bubble began July 30, Steph was a little conflicted.

“Obviously I was happy to see basketball back on TV, but that first week I had major FOMO (fear of missing out),” he told The New York Times' Marc Stein on Sunday night. "Once you see Bron (LeBron James) and Kawhi (Leonard) and P.G. (Paul George) go at it, and you remember how much fun it is to play in those types of games and that kind of level, you miss it badly."

Unfortunately for the two-time NBA MVP, it's unclear exactly when he will get a chance to take the court again with actual stakes on the line. With the coronavirus pandemic still raging, nobody truly knows when the 2020-21 campaign will begin.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But whenever next season does commence, he and his teammates will be ready to rock and roll.

“Our roster kind of speaks for itself in terms of what me, Klay (Thompson) and Draymond (Green) have been through, and what we’ve got left in the tank,” Steph told Stein. “But it’s on us to use this time wisely.

"It’s just unchartered territory, whether you’re in the bubble or not.”

[RELATED: Why Bazemore-Warriors reunion in free agency makes sense]

As for the aforementioned FOMO, how is the 32-year-old dealing with it?

"Curry said he relies on all the bonus family time he’s getting with his wife, Ayesha, and their three children, business endeavors and then special occasions like Sunday’s P.G.A. outing," Stein writes.

And when it comes to business endeavors, Steph reportedly soon will be getting his own brand at Under Armour. So having some extra time on his hands to handle those details certainly can't hurt.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

Damian Lillard, Dwyane Wade congratulate Steph Curry on Under Armour brand

Damian Lillard, Dwyane Wade congratulate Steph Curry on Under Armour brand

To quote the legendary Ron Burgundy: Steph Curry is kind of a big deal at Under Armour.

So it makes perfect sense why the Warriors superstar soon will "have his own brand under the umbrella of Under Armour, just like how Michael Jordan has his Jordan Brand at Nike," as Let's Go Warriors recently reported.

And when Bleacher Report posted about the news to Instagram on Monday, prominent members of the basketball world paid tribute to the two-time NBA MVP.

View this post on Instagram

@stephencurry30 getting like Mike 👀 @brkicks

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

Dwyane Wade: "Welcome to the 'own' brand club."

Damian Lillard: "Love it."

Bradley Beal: "(three fire emojis)."

How long has this "own brand" thing been in the works?

Julie Creswell and Kevin Draper of The New York Times revealed some very important details in late January.

In the summer of 2018, two top Under Armour executives traveled to the West Coast on a critical mission. Kevin Plank, the sports apparel company’s founder and chief executive, and Patrik Frisk, its president and chief operating officer, needed to persuade Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors star and the company’s highest-profile endorser, not to leave the brand.

Mr. Plank was unhappy that Mr. Curry, whose endorsement deal pays him millions of dollars a year, would rarely wear Under Armour clothing to N.B.A. games. Mr. Curry was upset that sales of the signature Curry 3 shoe had been weak.

At the meeting, participants found a solution that would showcase just how much Mr. Curry meant to the company. Mr. Plank and Mr. Frisk agreed to build a separate business around him, one reminiscent of what Nike had done for Michael Jordan two decades before. The company brought on the former executive who had overseen the creation of the Jordan brand at Nike to run the Curry brand and promised Mr. Curry much more involvement in the development of his shoes. Mr. Curry decided to remain, and a crisis was averted.

Curry's contract with Under Armour runs through 2024, and is worth a reported $20 million annually.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]