Kevin Durant had an extensive and candid conversation with Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, touching on an array of topics, including the future of his jersey.
After nine seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder organization, Kevin Durant moved west to join the Golden State Warriors. He still wears the number 35 on his now blue and yellow jersey, a number that’s stuck with him for the length of his career.
Now that he’s gone, the Thunder found someone else to adorn the number that became synonymous with Durant — undrafted rookie PJ Dozier, who’s on a two-way contract. Durant spoke at length about the topic and had different feelings about it:
“I didn’t have that perspective at first. I didn’t have it when I went back to OKC. I was like, ‘F–k all of them.’ I didn’t have it when they gave my number away. I was, ‘F–k all of them.’ My best friend works for the team, I told him, ‘F–k all y’all. That’s f–ked up.’ Then I had to get out of my head, tell myself, ‘It’s not that serious, it is what it is.’ I understand it’s not my number anymore, they can do whatever they want with it, but you hand that number to a two-way player, you’ve got to be, like, ‘Nah, we’ve got too many good memories with this number, man.’ But at some point, that thing’s going to be in the rafters anyway; it’s all good. I did something they didn’t like. They did something I didn’t like. S–t happens. If I was on my death bed, I guarantee you Sam Presti and Russell Westbrook would come check on me. So I’m going to look at it that way rather than the other way.”
Oklahoma City will, at some point, put Durant’s jersey in the rafters. Whether or not the organization was upset with him leaving is water under the bridge, and not retiring his number would be disrespectful to one of the two greatest players the franchise has ever seen.
After 641 games (seventh all-time), Durant’s the organization’s all-time leader in PER at 25.0. He follows that by being second in win shares (107.9) and box plus/minus (4.8). Neither Seattle nor Oklahoma City has seen a more dangerous scorer, and his 27.4 points a night is first in franchise history; overall, only Gary Payton has scored more (18,207 to 17,566), but it took him 999 games to do so.
Durant complemented his numbers by bringing home a truck-load of accolades. The 29-year-old was named both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player with Oklahoma City. Additionally, he appeared in seven All-Star games and on six All-NBA teams. Durant quickly rose to stardom and then superstardom, evolving into a player whose size and skill set became deadly. His natural scoring ability, combined with the physicals, earned him four scoring titles.
The Thunder, unfortunately, never had the team success that they should’ve. Durant’s lone Finals appearance came in 2012 when his young team faced off against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. On top of that, Oklahoma City went to three conference Finals, where they lost to the Dallas Mavericks (eventual champs), San Antonio Spurs (eventual champs) and Golden State Warriors (not eventual champs). That last series was especially painful.
Oklahoma City had jumped out to a 3-1 lead before the sky came crashing down. Over the last three games, Durant averaged 32.0 points on 39.5 percent shooting. That loss, however, wasn’t entirely his fault. Russell Westbrook, his co-pilot, played no better, and that includes a hideous 7-of-21 shooting performance in the final game. In that same contest, Durant was 10-of-19. That was his last game with the Thunder.
When his career’s over with, Kevin Durant will find his way to Springfield. The Oklahoma City Thunder will also acknowledge what he did for the team and the community. The decision stung at first, and it may even sting some people in the future, but eight, nine, 10 years from now, things will be different. And the organization will immortalize Kevin Durant.
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