Kevin Durant’s highly contested return to Oklahoma City lives up to the immense hype in win
The storyline that captured the National Basketball Association’s attention the entire offseason has continued into the halfway point of the season: the surprising departure of Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors. The saga continued Saturday night as Durant made his much-anticipated return to Oklahoma City, as the Warriors battled the Thunder. The much-hyped matchup did not disappoint, as Durant put up big numbers against his former teammate, and now rival, Russell Westbrook. The last nine years of the Durant-Westbrook chronicle have been entertaining and constant. As teammates for the first eight of those, the young duo took over the league together. For much of that run, the two were undisputed top-10 players in the league as they decimated opponents with their unprecedented 1-2 scoring punch. The Thunder became a powerhouse in the NBA, going to four Western Conference Finals, as well as making one NBA finals appearance.
However, the team was never able to make it over the hump and bring home a title to the fans in Oklahoma City. Last year, the Thunder fell just short, as they led the Warriors in the conference finals 3-2. In Game 6 of the series, they seemed to be on their way to facing off with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, until Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson went off for a truly astounding NBA playoff record 11 3-pointers.
Many believe that if the Thunder had won that contest, Durant would never have left the franchise, and the entire trajectory of the NBA would have changed. Instead, the Warriors went on to the Finals, where they fell to the Cavaliers in one of the all-time greatest series. The Warriors’ defeat prompted the team to look for ways to improve the roster, ultimately leading them to Durant. Durant’s departure from the only franchise he had ever been a part of tore the Oklahoma City community apart, as fans felt betrayed and distraught. Many had been speculating that the fans would not be receptive to his return, and this belief was confirmed. Durant was booed at every turn, every time his name was introduced, every time he even touched the ball and every time he guarded Westbrook.
It is not often that a forward, Durant, and a guard, Westbrook, are able to go one-on-one, but this matchup was featured many times during the game. Warriors coach Steve Kerr even prompted Durant to guard his old teammate for eight possessions in the third quarter. The two had not spoken to one another since Durant announced his decision in early July; Durant, in fact, did not ever directly tell Westbrook about his decision.
However, the two finally had a conversation of sorts. As the two were going at it, Durant walked back to the bench and finished off the exchange by saying “you’re losing.” Westbrook was not the only one upset with Durant — other players came off the Thunder bench to exchange words, including Enes Kanter, who seemed visibly upset.
Andre Roberson also had a skirmish with Durant when he committed a hard foul on Durant during a layup attempt. Durant, unhappy with the aggressive foul, started walking towards Roberson as the two began arguing. The disagreement led to the two literally butting heads.
Durant, however, came out on top as his game-high 34 points led the Warriors to a 130-114 victory. The Warriors and Thunder have one more exhilarating contest against one another this season, as the Thunder faithful will have one more opportunity to rain down a booming chorus of boos upon their former star player.