The biggest free-agent domino has fallen and perhaps taken down the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise with it. On Thursday, the Warriors announced the signing was official.
The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.
I'm from Washington, D.C. originally, but Oklahoma City truly raised me. It taught me so much about family as well as what it means to be a man. There are no words to express what the organization and the community mean to me, and what they will represent in my life and in my heart forever. The memories and friendships are something that go far beyond the game. Those invaluable relationships are what made this deliberation so challenging.
It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career.
On July 4, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported, "Durant will sign a two-year deal with the Warriors at $54.3 million, league sources say, with a Player Option for Year 2." The Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson, citing a source, added that Durant had made his decision by Sunday night. Thompson concluded: "The wait was about getting the announcement in order."
The Warriors posted a photo of Durant in his new Warriors jersey:
Durant, 27, spent his first nine seasons with the Thunder franchise. He accumulated seven All-Star appearances, six All-NBA selections and an MVP award in 2013-14. The Thunder did not exist before Durant's arrival—he was drafted the season before their move from Seattle—and he's come to embody the franchise.
The Thunder thanked Durant for his services shortly after he announced his decision, via ESPN.com's Marc J. Spears:
Thunder general manager Sam Presti later spoke to reporters on Monday, answering a question about how fans should feel regarding Durant's departure, via Royce Young of ESPN:
Durant's mother tweeted her feelings about the organization following her son's announcement:
That Durant would leave the Thunder seemed like an impossible outcome less than two months ago. Oklahoma City, riding high off eliminating the 67-win San Antonio Spurs, took a 3-1 lead over the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
We all know what happened next. A pair of Golden State home wins and a dispiriting collapse in Game 6 from the Thunder sent them home early, and the Warriors nearly rode that wave to back-to-back championships before blowing their own 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
In Game 6, Durant and Russell Westbrook looked headed for a surefire future in which they'd spend their entire primes together.
Now Durant has skipped town and joined the competition.
Durant, typically low-key and deferential publicly, took meetings with the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs in addition to talking with the Thunder. Creating distance from Oklahoma City didn't take long, as Durant revealed he wanted to be "selfish" during his free-agency process.
"It's one of these things where I just, I've just got to hear from me and hear what I want and talk to myself on what I need and how I can make this thing work for myself and just try to be selfish a bit," Durant told reporters at his exit interview.
Golden State emerged as a suitor early in the process. It's a big enough market to land meetings with every potential free agent, so it would only make sense that Durant would listen to what the Warriors have to say. As the process moved on and the reports began mounting, it was clear Durant was considering a move.
The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski reported insight into Durant's decision:
Draymond Green shared his thoughts on Durant's arrival in a text message to Spears:
The Clippers were ruled out early—they could not come close to offering Durant a max deal—and Royce Young of ESPN.com reported that Durant was deciding between Golden State and OKC. Moving to the Bay Area would bring the near-certainty of a championship but a level of criticism not seen since LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami in 2010.
The benefit here is obvious. Durant is one of basketball's five best players—even if he isn't the clear heir apparent to LeBron many thought he'd be. He returned from an injury-plagued 2014-15 to average 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, narrowly missing out on a rare 50-40-90 shooting-percentage season in the process.
Adding Durant to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Green creates a four-headed monster that we've never seen before. There has been no more offensively gifted or versatile team in the history of the NBA.
ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss, citing a source, reported that Durant's new teammate Andre Iguodala "gave an incredible pitch at the Durant meeting. He referenced their time spent playing at the World Championships in 2010." Iguodala tweeted his excitement about Durant joining the team:
However, Spears noted ramifications for Festus Ezeli following Durant's signing, while Stein reported on Harrison Barnes' future too:
While Durant's recurring foot injuries may wind up rearing their head again, this is a risk you take 100 times out of 100. Acquiring Durant changes the course of an entire franchise, something the Thunder will now deal with on the other side of the spectrum.
Westbrook is a free agent next summer. With Durant gone, Oklahoma City may consider moving on. Westbrook is from L.A. and may bolt to a bigger city in a year. Serge Ibaka is already out the door, having been traded to the Orlando Magic. There may be a legitimate temptation to blow the whole thing up and start anew—making the Thunder one of the NBA's greatest what-if stories.
For now, the NBA merely has to deal with the biggest decision since The Decision.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.