The NBA Finals are over and Kevin Durant, who took a moment to give a shout out to his hometown of Washington D.C. after winning his first championship, took the MVP trophy with him.
The Golden State Warriors routed the Cleveland Cavaliers, taking them down in five games of a 129-120 victory on Monday.
Durant had 39 points in the series clincher but because he went to a team that won 73 games a year ago and already had won a title two years ago, it was assumed that he was just chasing a ring. When he left the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency last summer, he joined the team that had come back to beat him in the conference finals.
How dare he? The Warriors already had two-time MVP Steph Curry, one the league's best two-way players in Klay Thompson and a defensive player of the year caliber big in Draymond Green.
While the prospects of winning factored into his decision, Durant clearly felt suffocated by the bigger, more dominant personality of Russell Westbrook. Getting away from that was more important than anything and the Warriors are 180 degrees different.
Durant says it -- without directly saying it.
"I hear all the narratives throughout the season that I was hopping on bandwagons, that I was letting everybody else do the work," Durant said. "That was far from the truth. I came in and tried to help my team, try to be myself, be aggressive and sacrifice as well. There was some games I might not get as many shots as I'm used to getting. There are some games where Steph is going to go off and hit 13 threes or Klay might hit 60 or Draymond might get a triple-double with no points. But nobody cared. As long as he won. Andre Igoudala, who is right there, continued to preach that every single day. It's all about the group. If your intentions are good then that means as a team that we're moving in the right direction."
This season was all about Westbrook's quest to break Oscar Robertson's triple-double record (he did) and averaging one (and he did). It also turned into a referendum on Durant's departure from Oklahoma City, with Westbrook intent on showing he didn't need him.
With complicity from his teammates, Westbrook chased stats to create the groundswell that he should be the MVP. They boxed out the opposing team at the foul line and allowed Westbrook to swoop in to grab uncontested rebounds to pad those numbers.
He dominated the ball like no one else in league history. While the talent surrounding him isn't great, Victor Oladipo, Taj Gibson, and Steven Adams are solid role pieces, he doesn't exactly make those players better.
What Westbrook did was special in its own way but it only benefitted the individual. Durant wanted to play in a system that is more about the collective and next to a point guard like Curry who'd gladly sacrifice for him. Durant benefitted the team but when it was time to get his own shot in an isolation in the fourth quarter he did it.
The ultimate irony, of course, is if Westbrook wins the regular-season MVP in a few weeks, Durant will have already one-upped him.
He wasn't a passenger on Golden State's championship team. He was the engine. He had the ball in the fourth quarter. The Warriors might not have won the crown without him. Durant was the antidote for LeBron James, who averaged a triple-double in the Finals.
Who remembers or even cares now that at the rookie combine Durant was ridiculed for not being able to bench press 135 pounds?
He can lift his trophies, and no one for Golden State is going to overshadow him.