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That Green and Durant interview
Complicated decisions, complicated people - but some insights as well
Why exactly did Kevin Durant walk away from a max contract with the Golden State Warriors? After winning two championships in three years (which could have potentially been three if not for a historic rash of injuries), Durant decided to take his talents elsewhere. It left many wondering why, media members frequently writing about the “when” of the decision, and a whole lot of finger pointing and online psychology.
But if you’re hoping for a clear explanation from the interview between Durant and Draymond Green, you’re still going to leave disappointed. That said, you should still watch/listen anyways. It’s only around 24 minutes, and it’s an extremely rare view into a conversational world that most will never get to hear.
When two NBA greats sit down for an earnest discussion, it’s generally pretty darn good. So I can only imagine the glee over at Bleacher Report film editing department when they were making the promo cut for this thing.
The two players start off with some pleasantries, but it doesn’t take long at all for the elephant in the room to stomp into the conversation.
As transcribed by our own Daniel Hardee, wearing his Vox hat for a day, here’s Durant’s full response:
It wasn’t the argument, it was the way that everybody, Steve Kerr acted like it didn’t happen. Bob Myers tried to just discipline you and think that would put the mask over everything. I really felt like that was such a big situation for us as a group, the first time we went through something like that, we had to get that shi*t all out.
I remember watching “The Last Dance”, the whole team in the locker room said “Scottie that was f*cked up that you did that”. We needed that. We just need to put all of that on the table and say “Yo Dray, K, that was f*cked up we even had to go through that, let’s just wipe our hands with that and let’s go finish the task”.
I don’t think we did that and we tried to dance around it and I just didn’t like how all of that...just the vibe between all of that made sh*t weird for me. I’d rather us be who we say we are. Family first, communication is key, but we didn’t show that, and that’s what rubbed me the wrong way more than anything.
Dray: When we landed back from LA, they put me in that room in Signature for an hour and 45 minutes while Hazel sat in the car. And they tried to tell me, you need to apologize. I’ll talk to K but yall won’t tell me what I need to say. And they went on for an hour and 45 minutes saying a bunch of BS. And ultimately they realized, we’re not getting through to him. We’re gonna try again in the morning.
The story goes on to say that in the morning, upon his return to the team, Green again re-iterated that he would talk to Durant, but not in any sort of script from the Warriors front office.
Green: …the only person that can make this right, is me and K. And there’s nothing that y’all can do and y’all are going to f*ck this up. And in my opinion, they f*cked it up.
KD: I think so too.
Okay. So we’ll get back to this in a moment, but I want to include another little snippet, because this interview isn’t just about this short exchange that went viral. One of the other aspects of this relationship that becomes clear in the video is the tremendous amounts of mutual respect these two players have for each other.
It’s actually before the discussion of the argument, but I thought their conversation around breaking basketball stereotypes and expectations was really cool. You wouldn’t necessarily see the immediate similarities between Green’s game and Durant’s. The former is an undersized big man who controls the game on both ends, despite hardly scoring any points. The latter is a stretchy freak of nature straight out of a video game create-a-player: a seven foot tall scoring guard with savant-level basketball IQ.
So it’s neat that Green quickly zooms in on this shared dichotomy.
Green starts off by saying that as the biggest guy on most of his younger teams, he was quickly shoehorned into the big man role. Crediting his uncle who “taught me how to dribble, taught me guard skills… and I still ended up at center.”
But then he spins it over to Durant, a player that fought a different battle - lying about his height and doing everything in his power to be seen as a wing rather than a big. Durant quips “I played [center] a little bit in college ‘cause I couldn’t really dribble… but I was still on the perimeter… most guys that tall and skinny, they can’t move at the same time”
These are the sorts of detailed responses that it’s often hard for interviewers to get out of these top tier players.
And finally, let’s look at the answer on Durant’s departure.It comes right after the conversation above, and I think it actually comes a little closer to answering the real question, “why did you leave?”
[Author’s note: Dub Nation HQ member Alex points out below that this quote is actually in regards to Durant’s departure from the Thunder. I've left the below section as written in the hopes that his mentality behind the decision is still relevant.]
Starting at this time stamp, here’s the beginning of Durant’s answer as to whether leaving the Warriors was “strictly a basketball decision.”
Durant: It was a basketball decision, but I also knocked down the “don’t give a f*ck”… birds with two stones, you know?”
The answer quickly degrades into a series of vague comments about his desire to just play basketball, but he never dances any closer to a real answer than that first sentence.
So, what did we learn?
As a kid, I lived in this raised house where the above-ground crawlspace vents were all protected by these little metal screen (kind of like wind screens, but thicker). One day young Duby went around the house and kicked in all of these little screens. My father, appropriately furious was screaming in my face, demanding answers about why I would do this.
But the thing was, there was no thought. It was beyond the scope of my young mind. Pure action.
In a way, Durant’s departure from the Warriors is one of those “kick all the screens in” moment. Warriors fans will never get the full answer. Heck, Durant himself may not consciously understand all the reasons that went into his decision to try something else.
The “basketball decision” part only partially checks out. Even with both he and Thompson being injured, the core four could have competed for plenty of future championships. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that the new team assembled around Durant in New Jersey isn’t in the same boat.
So there’s almost certainly more to the story. From the cringey “jokes” at the championship parades, to stylistic disagreements on and off the court there’s a lot of water that had accumulated during Durant’s tenure with the Warriors. But it’s all under the bridge now, and best not picked at too hard.
“I don’t have any regrets at all because we did exactly what we were supposed to do.”
Durant’s exact reasons may remain opaque but his overall stated view of his time here - and ultimately, his departure - are noteworthy in that there’s no bitterness. Personally, that’s my takeaway. Durant did good work with Golden State, and then decided to move on, for a variety of reasons.
Rather than try to dissect the corpse of the dynasty run, maybe it’s best to just leave it alone and look back on it later as something that was amazing. The best basketball I’ve ever seen, or likely ever will.
I know this is already heavy with quotes from that 24-minute video, but I would like to leave one last one here, as a closing thought. If you really want to understand Duran’t reasons for leaving, you’ve got to step outside the limitations of children’s stories, where there’s a clear line between good and evil, with everyone falling cleanly into one category or the other.
Here’s Durant, praising Green for his play style and personality:
"But you pushed it to a limit where it's like it's cool for me to be who I am and not apologize for it all the time," Durant added, "because you don't mean no harm to anybody, but s--t that you wanted done, you wanted done. And we all respected that. And we all kind of looked up to that as guys who come into the league and want to fit into this system so bad, wanting to be a part of this whole thing, then you realize you see dudes who [are] just going by their own little pace, and it's like, that's more so my rhythm.
Dudes just going by their own little pace.
As outsiders, we don’t always have to “get” everything about why people do stuff. With Durant’s departure, he’s left a parting gift to the fan base. And if you accept his gift and become comfortable with ambiguity, simply enjoying the years he spent with the team becomes a much more important and meaningful mental retrospective than finding that one reason for why it ended.