The conversations around “legacy” are always somewhat annoying and generally seem to pop up when the NBA season has come to an end, forcing the talking heads to turn to the conversation as a means of driving ratings.
But that doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t relevant.
Following the Golden State Warriors fourth championship in eight years, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley discussed the impact another championship for Golden State will have on the former Warrior, Kevin Durant.
“Before KD gets that great respect from all the ‘old heads,’ he’s going to have to win a championship as the ‘bus driver.’ He joined that team that already won a championship, no disrespect, that’s just a fact,” Barkley said on ESPN’s “Get Up.”
“Until he is the guy on a championship team, we’re not going to ever give him the respect that he probably deserves. The game hasn’t changed. Kobe said it, LeBron said it, we’re going to hold him to the same high standard.”
Barkley made the point that the greats of the game won championships as the leading guy on a team, or the “bus driver” as Charles calls it. And of course, Durant needs to do the same in order to deserve the praise he so obviously craves.
Now, Durant fired back on Twitter, saying that Barkley was just another “hatin old head” that is jealous of the money that today’s players make. What money has to do with the argument is anyone’s guess, and Durant can say whatever he’d like on the topic, but his actions speak much louder than his words.
Why did Durant choose to leave an Oklahoma City team which was one game away from the NBA Finals? He left in order to fill the gaping hole in his resume which did not contain a championship.
Durant believed that by winning a ring, the talking heads – such as Barkley – would no longer have anything to criticize regarding his career. But he was incorrect, given the team with which he chose to win.
No one is saying that Durant’s two championships with Golden State don’t count, or even that he wasn’t the most talented player on the roster. What some fans of the NBA say is that he took the easy way out, choosing to join an historically great team – Golden State won an NBA record 73 games during the 2015-2016 season – thereby putting an asterisk next to Durant’s rings.
It’s not like he’s the first NBA player to receive this treatment. When James teamed up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, fans of the game echoed a similar message. But James left Miami, winning a ring in Cleveland, and cemented his legacy among the all-time greats.
Durant realized as well that he needed to win elsewhere in order to earn the respect he so desperately wants.
Why else would he leave Golden State after just three seasons? After rupturing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant could have returned to San Francisco, taken the year off to recover, and gone about winning additional championships with Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr.
But Durant knew that by returning to Golden State, he would never reach the rarified air in which guys like James, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan sit.
So, Durant left for Brooklyn, becoming the leader of the Nets organization and giving him the opportunity to accomplish what James did when he returned to Cleveland.
He hasn’t done so yet, but he still has time. During last year’s NBA Playoffs, Durant’s performance against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals was legendary, cementing him as the best player in the NBA at the time. He was earning the respect of the “old heads” by doing it on his own, by being the “bus driver.”
Quite frankly, Durant earned more respect by losing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals than he did by winning two rings in Golden State.
And he knows that. It’s why he left the Warriors organization when he could have remained and won many more rings.
So, Durant can chirp on Twitter all he wants. His actions still speak louder than his words.