Numbers, titles, awards – they’re all measurable, tangible, objective. That big word, legacy? A bit more difficult to grasp or agree on. By enhancing the myth of himself and the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry is puncturing holes all through the legacy of Kevin Durant.
Such a claim might be unfair from a certain perspective, especially Durant, who carries a weird combination on his shoulders: a relatively team-friendly superstar who doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight, yet uber sensitive to how he is perceived in the media, be it mainstream reporters or 12-year old trash talkers on Twitter.
Why should a player with back-to-back NBA titles and back-to-back NBA Finals MVP, who is possibly the best NBA player alive, a guaranteed future hall of famer and perhaps the most lethal offensive weapon to set foot on an NBA court, be worried about his legacy?
Because Durant will always be the player who joined a 73-win team; a team that knocked him and his previous team out of the playoffs despite the 3-1 series lead he, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder held; a team that won the championship in 2015 in style and relative ease. A team that’s now flourishing in his absence.
Curry was struggling through this postseason as the Warriors scraped through the Los Angeles Clippers and ran into a difficult Houston Rockets. Heading into Houston for game 6, holding a suddenly suspect 3-2 series lead, the absence of Durant signaled to some a chance to finally dethrone the Warriors. It ended up being a galvanizer to the “old” Warriors and sans-Durant Curry.
In four games without Durant, the Warriors clinched their conference semifinals series against the Rockets and have taken a 3-0 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers, twice overcoming double digit deficits to put themselves a win away from 5 consecutive finals. Curry, in this four game stretch, is averaging 35.5 points on 47.3% from the field, 41.1% from three and 97.1% from the line. MVP’ish is an understatement.
The Warriors were historically good without Durant. With him, they’re unfair. Without him again, at least momentarily, the foundations of what makes this dynasty so good were uncovered again. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala. Each gets a bigger slice of the pie now that Durant is out injured.
Perhaps it’s the weak (relatively) opponent, and certainly it’s not exactly true that the Warriors are better without Durant; simply different. Yet for a player who cares so much about how he is perceived, the style and success of the Warriors in his absence shows once again that anything he continues to achieve in Golden State (if he stays in the Bay Area after this offseason) will forever have an asterisk attached to it in any discussion about greatness and legacy.