Kevin Durant’s championship celebration began with about a minute left in Monday night’s 129-120 victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
He remembers crossing the half court line at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, bending over and thinking, “Is this really happening?”
He heard Golden State teammates Draymond Green and Andre Iguadala tell him to keep playing, that the game wasn’t over yet. But deep down, Durant knew better.
There was no way the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to steal another NBA Finals. He knew his championship quest was complete, that he had earned his moment of reflection.
“I’m like, ‘Bro, we’re about to win the title,’” said Durant.
Durant’s decade in the NBA has brought him plenty of hardware – notably, the 2012 NBA All-Star Game MVP and the 2014 league MVP – but those honors now will be shoved a little further back in his trophy case. That’s because Monday night ended with him claiming another honor that isn’t easy to win: NBA Finals MVP.
So yeah, add that to his resume that includes eight NBA All-Star team selections.
“It feels so great because, like I said, it’s a team sport,” said Durant. “Man, you got to want to sacrifice. You got to want to put your teammates in front of yourself sometimes. And I just tried to do that but also be aggressive. Andre (Iguadala) told me all the time, it is your time, go take it, it’s about you. But I’m like, no, it’s about us. It’s about us. But I’m still going to be me.”
Durant being Durant was plenty good enough for the Warriors to claim their second title in three seasons but first with him anchoring their arsenal. Durant was a dominating force, averaging 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists as he and the Cavs’ LeBron James fiercely dueled one-on-one in their own Finals sideshow.
“We did it together,” said Durant of his Warrior teammates. “You call us a super team, but it’s been a lot of super teams that hasn’t worked, and we came together and we continued to just believe in each other. We sacrificed and we’re champions now.”
While Monday’s win completed a 16-1 postseason, it didn’t take much reflection at all for Durant to know that the Warriors had to work for everything they got.
“The toughest challenge was to come in here and see how I can help Steph (Curry) get better, see how I can help Klay (Thompson) get better, Draymond, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, the whole team – just see how I can help them get better.
“Proving haters wrong, like that’s cool. That’s cool for me to talk about it on Instagram or Twitter … You can talk about whatever you want to talk about, but nobody comes in and cares about the game or loves the game as much as I do or works as hard as I do.”
Along the way his partnership with Curry was validated as one of the great championship tandems.
“The stuff you hear about Steph as far as sacrificing and being selfless and caring about his teammates, caring about other people is real,” said Durant. “It’s not a fake. It’s not a façade … And it’s amazing to see a superstar who sacrifices, who doesn’t care about nothing but the group.”
Perhaps that’s best demonstrated by the fact that Curry’s ego doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to someone like Durant. Heck, Curry wasn’t the MVP of Golden State’s 2015 championship, either. Iguadala took that honor. But none of that bothers Curry. It’s the championship trophies he wants to collect.
“This is what we talked about this whole year, realizing this goal and understanding how important we both would be to the equation, along with our teammates,” said Curry of Durant. “We learned a lot about each other going through this journey.
“So we’re obviously just getting started. This is something that we want to continue to do.”
They don’t have to, of course. Curry, Durant and Iguadala all become free agents this summer but neither is in a hurry to move on after what they accomplished this season playing for Kerr.