The Golden State Warriors will take on the new-look Oklahoma City Thunder in a matchup that will be far from normal for Kevin Durant.
The Golden State Warriors will play it down. The Oklahoma City Thunder will play it down. Russell Westbrook will play it down. Kevin Durant will play it down.
They’ll all say it’s just another game, but when the Warriors step onto that Chesapeake Energy Arena court, it’ll be anything but. These games, though in the regular season, mean something. They mean something when no. 35 suits up for the Dubs.
We all know Durant’s career story by now. We’ve covered it extensively. We’ve also talked about his decision to join the Warriors.
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He left Westbrook, a great point guard, for Stephen Curry, the league’s best point guard. He followed up a season that ended in a postseason heartbreak with his first championship. He reached the Larry O’Brien trophy in just one season in the Bay Area when he couldn’t secure a title in nearly a decade with the Thunder.
While Durant was winning his first championship and Finals MVP, Westbrook broke out in historic fashion. He averaged a triple-double for an entire season and won the league’s Most Valuable Player. This only added to the new rivalry.
The two sides have exchanged jabs since July 2016. From cupcake shirts to a cupcake hat, they’ve gone back and forth quite a bit. Recently, the Thunder gave Durant’s no. 35 to an unproven player, a move that the 2014 MVP admitted bothered him.
He’s tried to move past it all as of late, revealing that the decision has weighed on him quite a bit. He’s emphasized that there are no hard feelings on his end. He has a point: after everything that he went through with many within the organization–including Westbrook–that bond should outlast any sense of betrayal or anger following his decision.
Returning to OKC will always bring back July 4, 2016. Durant can’t escape it and that’s OK. It makes the games more fun.
Having a rivalry like this for years to come is exciting. We saw Durant and the Warriors try to rip out the Thunder’s heart last season while simultaneously downplaying the situation. That’s not how it works.
Going back to OKC will always be an emotional trip full of memories. For Thunder fans, there will always be that hole that the best player in franchise history left when he departed for a rival team. For the Warriors and their fans, they’ll remember all of the battles they’ve had with the Thunder.
These games aren’t normal and they won’t be for a long time. And we love that.