Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant said winning his first NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 shifted his focus from titles to pushing himself to become the best player possible.
In an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols for SportsCenter released Saturday, Durant explained his mindset leading up to his first of two titles with the Warriors and how it's changed since:
"I wasn't expecting to be a happy human being from a title. I was just expecting like, you know, the ending of a movie -- once you worked so hard and everybody tells you like, 'Yo, this is what you need to be working for, is this gold ball and these rings.' And I'm just like, 'All right, cool, let me lock in on that.' And I locked in on wanting to achieve that, but I also realized it's a lot of stuff that factors in it that's out of my control.
"And once I won a championship [with Golden State], I realized that, like, my view on this game is really about development. Like, how good can I be? It's not about, you know, let's go get this championship. I appreciate that stuff and I want to win to experience that stuff, but it's not the end-all, be-all of why I play the game."
Durant signed with Golden State in July 2016 to form one of the most star-studded rosters in NBA history alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
The Warriors' overpowering squad proceeded to post a 182-64 regular-season record and won two championships during his three-year tenure with the organization.
Durant suffered a ruptured Achilles during the 2019 NBA Finals as the team was pushing for a three-peat, and he left to join the Nets the following offseason.
Now the 32-year-old 11-time All-Star finds himself part of another conglomeration of superstars aiming to run roughshod through the league with Kyrie Irving and James Harden, who was acquired in a January trade to complete the NBA's latest Big Three construction.
Durant told Nichols the trio's prior time with the United States national team prepared them for a situation where no single player is going to dominate the offensive touches:
"I think our experiences with Team USA definitely helped. When you're in that environment, I wouldn't say you have to shrink yourself, but you really have to check your ego and figure out when you need to use it. You might have to take a step back in order for the team to be good. And I think we all understand that. ...
"I love what we're building. ... Everybody brings their part to it. Everybody's valuable. And we're just trying to create something pretty cool for people to watch, and for us to get the players to come play in."
Durant, who was absent for nearly two months with a hamstring injury, didn't miss a beat in his return Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. He tallied 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists in just 19 minutes during the Nets' 139-111 win.
Brooklyn stands atop the Eastern Conference with a 36-16 record and will be the team to beat in the East, and potentially the NBA as a whole, if Durant, Harden and Irving are all healthy for the playoffs.
The Nets will be back in action Saturday night when they welcome the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers, who are without cornerstones LeBron James and Anthony Davis because of injuries, to Barclays Center for an 8:30 p.m. ET tip on ABC.