When Kevin Durant decided to leave the Thunder for the Warriors last summer, much to the chagrin of Russell Westbrook, he did so at least in part because he felt like Golden State gave him the best possible chance to return to the NBA Finals and win an NBA title. KD and the Thunder made it all the way to the final round of the NBA Playoffs back in 2012, but they were ultimately defeated by LeBron James and the Heat 4-1. And in the years that followed, the Spurs and Warriors made life difficult on Oklahoma City and prevented them from getting back to the Finals again.
On the day when KD announced his decision to join the Warriors last summer, Twitter exploded with most NBA fans sending out tweets with some variation of "Give the Warriors the title now." Most people believed that it was going to be virtually impossible for any team in the Western Conference—or hell, any team in the entire NBA—to knock off a team featuring Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and KD. It almost made the entire 2016-17 season seem like it would be a waste, according to some people:
But of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as that, as it took some time for KD to find his place on the Warriors roster. The Warriors actually got blown out by 29 points against the Spurs in their first game of the season. They also lost by 20 points to the Lakers—a team that finished 26-56—a short time later. Additionally, there was an ongoing KD vs. Westbrook feud that hung over the Warriors team like a black cloud for much of the season.
And of course, KD was forced to deal with an insane amount of hate on social media throughout the year. He brushed it off during an interview with ESPN in late 2016 and said he tries his best to tune out the haters. But it didn't stop people from going at him on Twitter throughout the season. A quick search for KD's Twitter handle and the word "snake" turns up thousands of tweets like these:
Hate aside, the regular season played out the way most people expected it to. Even though a knee injury knocked KD out of commission for about a month at one point, the Warriors finished 67-15 and clinched the top seed in the Western Conference. KD averaged 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. And despite some concerns over how Curry would react to KD coming in and stealing some of his spotlight this season, it didn’t appear as though there was any turmoil in the Golden State locker room.
The Warriors continued their winning ways once the playoffs started, sweeping the Trail Blazers and Jazz to advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs. And although San Antonio looked like they had Golden State on the ropes in Game 1 of their best-of-7 series, Kawhi Leonard was injured on a controversial play in the second half of the game, which allowed the Warriors to complete one of the biggest playoff comebacks in NBA history to take a 1-0 series lead. The ankle injury ended up knocking Leonard out for the remainder of the series and allowed the Warriors to sweep the Spurs and punch KD’s ticket to his second NBA Finals appearance.
As you might expect, NBA fans responded to KD accomplishing his goal of getting back to the NBA Finals with a win on Monday night by, well, hating. Many joked that this was the second straight season KD helped the Warriors reach the Finals, since he was on the Thunder team that blew a 3-1 series lead last May to allow the Warriors to earn a berth in the Finals:
There were a few fans here and there who were—somewhat surprisingly—happy to see KD advance to the Finals for the first time in five years:
But for the most part, fans showed that they still seem to be holding a grudge against KD for the way he went about leaving OKC:
To his credit, KD has stayed consistent and shown that he doesn't seem to care what these kinds of people think. Prior to Game 4 against the Spurs on Monday, he did an interview with The Undefeated and talked about how he’s glad he made the decision to leave the Thunder for the Warriors, in spite of all the hate he received for doing it.
"I made the 100 percent correct decision, win or lose," he said. "I feel like this is the place I was supposed to be. I appreciate everything I’ve done before this. But I’m here now, and I feel like it’s a great spot for me to be. This is where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. I’m taking it on and conquering every part of it. I’m enjoying every single step."
KD also said that, even if he wins a title this season, he understands that people are still going to get on him about leaving the Thunder.
"They are always going to talk," he said. "Nobody is ever going to be happy, no matter what you do. Definitely, I’ve got a lot of support out here. We get a lot of support. But someone is always going to discredit anything good that happens."
And while that may be true, KD let it be known it’s not going to stop him from chasing the one thing he’s been chasing since his NBA career started a decade ago. While he was thrilled to advance to the Finals on Monday night, he also said that he knows there is still more work to be done after the Game 4 matchup with the Spurs:
The Warriors will now have more than a week to sit and stew before the NBA Finals start on June 1. That more than likely means KD will be subjected to more hate online between now and then. But it didn’t seem to affect him all that much last summer, it didn't seem to affect him during the regular season, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting him now. He’s right where he wanted to be when he signed with the Warriors last summer, and that’s all that really matters to him.