It’s hard to believe it was less than three years ago that LeBron James was still Enemy #1 after abandoning his small market hometown for a shot at glory on a team full of stars and, in comparison, Kevin Durant was being universally applauded for his deep community involvement and dedication to bringing small market Oklahoma City a title.
How did the seemingly universally beloved star, who inspired adulation from colleagues such as NBA journeyman Caron Butler, who called him “his favorite teammate ever,” drop so far so quickly in estimation around the league? Was he ever truly the “gentle giant” of lore or was he something a little bit more… self-serving? “He's got a little politician in him. He likes to tell people what they want to hear,” Berry Tramel wrote in a 2013 column in the Oklahoman. Perhaps he was on to something.
As he writes the second chapter of his career, history will now be the judge if the legacy-defining leap Durant took was worth it. Yet look no further than rival LeBron James, and you will realize its never too late to turn yet another page.
With that in mind (and look out for our recent companion article about Russell Westbrook)… Here are 8 People Who Have Loved Being Kevin Durant’s Teammate and 7 Who Have Hated It
15 Loved: Dion Waiters
Dion Waiters only played alongside Kevin Durant in 2014-15 and 2015-16, but towards the end of the second season, tragedy befell him when his little brother was murdered. He credited KD with helping him get through it, calling him a new “big brother.” Indeed, Durant did everything last season from giving Waiters advice on cologne (he favors the older editions) and publicly taking him to task towards the end of Game Two in the Western Conference Finals, cursing him out on court.
There was confusion as to whether or not the latter was done with good intentions, but Durant clarified following the game. “I don't want to tell on him, but you should have seen how he cursed me out before I said something to him," Durant joked. "But it's part of playing basketball. It's part of the brotherhood and having teammates that you really have fun playing with.” For his part, Waiters was one of the few ex-teammates to unequivocally support Durant when he left at the end of last season. “He made a man move, he made a man decision,” Waiters said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing. A lot of people probably say it is, but I think what he did was brave.”
“I feel as though he’s found happiness,” Waiters said. “That’s what it’s about sometimes, man.”
14 Hated: Enes Kanter
With all eyes on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in their first match as opposing players on November 3rd of this season, it was none other than Enes Kanter who ended up getting into it from the sideline with KD during the second quarter. "How many minutes did he play?" KD asked reporters of Oklahoma City’s back-up center following the game. "Three minutes. I’m trying to focus on whoever’s on the court. He's trying to talk to me from the sideline. But I’m sure he’s going to put something on Twitter tonight.”
Ah yes. The tweets. Kanter repeatedly trolled KD upon hearing he was leaving the Thunder, which Durant announced in a Players’ Tribune article. In fact, when Westbrook signed an extension to stay in OKC, Kanter responded by photoshopping Westbrook's face onto said article with the caption "I Ain't Leavin’.” He also joined his more famous teammate in tweeting a picture of a cupcake in reference to Durant, an allusion to a term that Kendrick Perkins had brought to OKC to describe players acting soft.
Following the November game, as KD predicted, Kanter indeed added another tweet to the mix, simply posting “Okla-HOME.”
13 Loved: Derek Fisher
The 18-year-veteran played most of his final three seasons with Oklahoma City, and Kobe Bryant’s former running mate found himself impressed with Durant as a star on and off the court. “What continues to separate Kevin from so many other young guys before him and probably those that will come after him,” Derek Fisher said, “is that he’s a phenomenal person. He really cares about the success of others around him and I think that is what will always make the conversation about how great he was, once he’s done, very fun to have because whatever success he has his teammates will have it with him and that’s what he’s always wanted.”
Early in 2015-16, rumors about Durant signing with the New York Knicks in the off-season dominated the NBA, in no small part due to their hiring of Fisher as coach the year previously. However, the Knicks fired Fisher mid-way through the season, despite the team having already easily eclipsed their win total from the previous year only 54 games in. Durant responded that “an opportunity you choose, you want your environment to be stable and have good people around you and work with great people.” It’s not hard to wonder if New York shot themselves in the foot with that one.
12 Hated: Reggie Jackson
Kevin Durant was inactive for the game when Reggie Jackson excessively celebrated a key victory over his old team in front of a Detroit home crowd late in the 2015-16 season, but he still had something to say about it. “It was bush league, in my opinion,” Durant said. “Jumping up and down, running around. I understand you’re happy you won the game, but our whole team didn’t play. We would’ve beat the hell out of them if it did… Some guys are who they are.”
Why the bad blood? Jackson felt he should have played a larger role in his four seasons at Oklahoma City from 2011-2015, most notably writing “SPG” on his shoes, for starting point guard, even with none other than Russell Westbrook playing in front of him. When he was finally traded in early January 2015, Durant commented “we felt like everybody wanted to be here except for one guy.”
Sure, Jackson’s main subject of ire was probably Westbrook, but by the end he seemed to resent the whole OKC squad. He even tweeted a smirking emoji the night the team got knocked out of the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors.
11 Loved: Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin played alongside Durant and Westbrook for one season, and upon leaving made a veiled attack on OKC, commenting about his new team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, that “nobody is trying to lead the league in scoring here.” Perhaps he was speaking more of the Thunder’s point guard than KD however, because when asked to clarify he quickly spoke positively… of Durant. "KD is my guy and we've already talked, so he knows for sure that it wasn't a shot at him,” Martin clarified. “Way too much respect for him.” He went on to call Durant someone he "loved playing with and more importantly a good friend.”
Interestingly, the Thunder finished Martin’s lone-season in 2012-13 with the best record in the Western Conference, but fell in the semifinals to the Memphis Grizzlies following Westbrook’s season-ending knee injury. Martin, for his part, averaged his lowest points per game average in an eleven year span that year, and despite the opportunity to step up in Westbrook’s absence, didn’t do any better in the postseason.
10 Hates: Shaun Livingston
We will admit we are only speculating, but when your minutes immediately go up upon leaving a team with Durant as its star and your minutes immediately go down upon his arrival to another team you play for (as they have this season), its not too much of a leap to think Shaun Livingston is not too happy playing alongside KD.
As the only player on the Golden State Warriors to have previously called Kevin Durant a teammate (they teamed together at OKC for parts of two seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10), Livingston’s job status immediately became the subject of much speculation upon the off-season signing. Along with Andre Iguodola, smart money says that the Warriors won’t be able to afford bringing back the two critical role-players if Durant opts out of his current contract at the end of the year (which he is expected to do.) This, after Livingston already survived rumors he would be traded last off-season to make room for KD.
The good news is the last time Livingston left a Durant-led squad, in 2009-10, he went from averaging 13 minutes per game as a back-up Thunder point guard to becoming a starter for the Washington Wizards. Maybe greener pastures lie ahead.
9 Loved: Jeff Green
The fifth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft broke into the NBA with the second pick, Kevin Durant, playing for three seasons together first with the Seattle Supersonics and then transitioning with the team to Oklahoma City. The two also grew up together as basketball players from the same county in Maryland, though they never got to play on the same team.
In 2011-12, as a member of the Boston Celtics, Jeff Green missed the entire season because of an aortic aneurysm that required surgery. “He's like my brother. We came in together. We were drafted together," Durant recalled. And even though they were no longer teammates at that point, "I dedicate the season to him," Durant added. "I talk to him all the time. He supports me. I support him.”
Green, now with his fifth team, the Orlando Magic, still appreciates his time in OKC. “You develop friendships and relationships with those guys and they still stay intact,” he recently said. “But your career still goes on.”
8 Hated: Steven Adams
It’s no surprise that Russell Westbrook “played cards” instead of watching Kevin Durant’s debut with the Golden State Warriors, but Thunder starting center Steven Adams had an equally humorously blasé response. “I was watching cartoons mate,” he said. “Some Japanese anime, I don’t know if you watch those … ‘One Piece’. It’s about pirates.”
While unquestionably a character, the Kiwi-born four year veteran who has played his entire career at Oklahoma City, is also simply not the type to give into a public war of words with a former teammate he disagrees with (see Enes Kanter, another OKC center, #14 on this list, whom Adams gave a friendly knee-tap to cut out his jawing with Durant earlier this season.) Following KD’s departure however, he did allude a bit to some deeper feelings when he said “we’ve got a great group of guys, and they're just willing to work. That's what I like being around, just dudes who want to enjoy it and just work really hard.”
Durant, for his part, said leaving Adams was one of the hardest parts of moving on from the Thunder. “Steven is going to be great, man. He works hard, he loves the game, and he just had that pure fun and joy.” There have even been rumors of Durant imploring the Warriors to trade for Adams.
7 Loved: James Harden
Before the Thunder were the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook show, they were the Durant, Westbrook, and James Harden show and in 2011-12, rode the trio all the way to the NBA Finals before falling to a more renowned “Big Three” on the Miami Heat. Former teammate Reggie Jackson, who didn’t exactly have a lot of good vibes upon leaving Oklahoma City (see #12), recalled the trio fondly. “Man, the youth of the guys at the time (Harden was 22, Westbrook and Durant 23 in their FINAL season together) and just the environment and how everybody felt about each other… it was special,” former teammate Jackson said. “Because when they had it rolling, they had it rolling. And they were all happy for each other. Sometimes one basketball isn't enough, they say.”
As he is want to do, Durant defended his former teammate this past off-season, who has backed it up as an early MVP-candidate this year leading the Houston Rockets to one of the best records in the NBA. “Nobody really appreciates what he does except for the players,” Durant complained. “Everybody on the outside doesn't really appreciate what he brings.” Harden, for his part, “appreciated” what Durant brought this past off-season as well, as the former teammates were seen hanging out at a restaurant, leading to speculation that KD was considering the Rockets as a possible destination.
6 Hates: Draymond Green
As we did with Shaun Livingston (see #10), we are dedicating our next few slots to Durant’s current teammates with the Warriors. Clearly the word is still out on all of these relationships after only a half-season together, so the best we can do at this point is try to… read between the lines.
After KD’s signing, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that former Thunder teammates were made angry because “there was some knowledge there that Draymond (Green) was in contact with Kevin (Durant) all season long.” Green acknowledged as much, saying “I mean, I was really just telling him about the fun we have together—the fun that this team has and how he would be welcome here with open arms.”
However, Green was seen visibly erupting on KD during a come-from-ahead loss to the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this month, clearly frustrated with Durant’s end of game choices - perhaps not as much fun as first predicted. “I’m actually happy we lost today because there’s some things that we need to correct in order to win a championship, and that’s our goal,” he said after. Durant took the blame, saying “that’s on me,” but one can’t help but wonder with Green losing scoring touches and playing time this year, and the Warriors playing below the record setting pace of last season, if there will soon be significant trouble in paradise.
5 Loves: Klay Thompson
The “Splash Brother” people predicted would be most effected by the arrival of Durant in terms of a reduced role on the team was Klay Thompson. In the months following KD’s arrival, Thompson sounded pretty defensive of his role. “I’m not sacrificing [expletive], because my game isn’t changing. I’m still going to try to get buckets, hit shots, come off screens. I want to win and have a fun time every game we play.”
Interestingly, he has so far managed to do just that, as his stat line looks almost identical to the past season across the board. He even squarely spoke out that it wasn’t Durant’s fault when he suffered an early season slump, aptly pointing out “I struggled last year for the first 20 games and Kevin wasn't here. So it has nothing to do with Kevin.”
So far, so good for Durant’s effect on Thompson. But what about his “brother” Steph Curry?
4 Hates: Steph Curry
What exactly did they think was going to happen when the winner of two-straight-MVPs and prolific scorer was going to have to share the ball with Kevin Durant? After leading the league with 30.1 points per game, Curry’s scoring average is down to a “pedestrian” 24.7 as of this writing and is not even considered a top-five MVP candidate. Even his shoe-sales have plummeted, as Foot Locker reported the “Curry 3” started off slower than previous models, causing Under Armour’s stock to tumble 5% over-night.
Bay Area columnist Marcus Thompson thinks Durant’s arrival is indeed having a direct effect on Curry’s game, tweeting “[he] is passing up shots he used to take without blinking” and writing “he's shown flashes of his usual self. But he has no doubt absorbed the greatest sacrifice of the Warriors' incumbent stars.” So far, Curry himself has stayed silent in terms of any bad words towards his new teammate, but he did call out the team for reducing pick-and-rolls, which seems to have been a major change in their play style since Durant’s arrival, by recent count down from around seven last season to 4.5 per game this year. In other words, there may be trouble in paradise.
3 Loves: Steph Curry
Did you really think we were just gonna write-off the Curry/Durant relationship as a negative just half-way into one of the biggest experiments in NBA history? While there are signs as to chinks in the armour, there is a lot to be excited about here as well. There are little things, like watching Curry imitate Durant’s long-legged, gazelle-like stride from the sideline in the second quarter of a recent game in Detroit, showing great humor and clear affection for his new teammate. There are the playful words of encouragement, such as this post-game recollection from Durant in December: “Steph told me to stop looking up at the scoreboard (laugh) and when I made those three shots in the fourth, he told me I'm 3-for-3.”
And there are the words from the man himself, such as these in late November. “I'm maybe getting a few less touches a game," Curry said. "But when I don't have the ball, I can still help us. Same with him (Durant). When I don't have the ball or he doesn't have the ball, the attention that we garner wherever we go on the floor helps open up shots for everyone else.”
“There are times with Steph,” Durant says, “I won’t even say what he says to me coming to the bench sometimes -- but that’s what teammates do. And you enjoy someone helping you get better.”
2 Hated: Russell Westbrook
Where to begin? There are the three tiers of cupcakes Westbrook posted to Instagram the day of Durant’s announcement of his signing with Golden State, perhaps an allusion to KD’s choice as “soft” (see #14, above.) And, as most of the world knows by now, it has only gotten worse from there, including Westbrook calling a Durant comment about his new teammates truly acting like a family as “cute” and the two avoiding each other at tip-off of their first game as opponents.
But what about before Westbrook knew Durant was going to leave him behind in OKC? Did he hate him then? “We had our own cliques that we hung with on the road. Russell had his guys, I had mine,” Durant recalled to Rolling Stone, hardly an indictment but hardly pointing to a closeness either. And then, there was this bomb, from ESPN reporter Royce Young, that “Durant was telling people that Westbrook was literally the worst teammate he'd ever had”, as early as 2011.
“There was always controversy of whose team it was," former teammate Kendrick Perkins recalled. "Why it can't be just both of y'all's team? Why can't it be Russ goes for 50 one night, you go for 60 the next? Why it can't be both of y'all's teams?”
1 Loved: Russell Westbrook
At the end of the day, Russell Westbrook steadfastly denies any controversy with KD, at least up until the minute he chose to move on from OKC.
“"That's a part of the media world," Westbrook once said, of insinuations he did not enjoy playing alongside his teammate. "That's normal. When they see something good, they want to pull it apart. When they see two good guys getting along, they try to find ways to see who's better and see if either can play without the other and see if the team can play without the other. To me, it's all B.S.”
And even with the new rift between them, Durant sees hope for their future. “We were brothers. We are brothers,” he noted this past November. “I love Russ. I don’t care what nobody say. I don’t care what he say or what the fans say. Like, this is a tough time right now in our relationship. But I love Russ.”
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