The NBA landscape seismically shifted when former-MVP Kevin Durant decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors in free agency. To some, the move is a natural one, with Durant heading to a more free-flowing offense that will suit his skill set and provide him with the best chance of winning a championship.
Others have strongly protested the move, vilifying Durant for his decision to join the team that his Thunder very nearly defeated in the Western Conference Finals this year. Like LeBron James when he joined the Miami Heat, Durant has been accused of trying to take the easy way out.
The decision, which has created a debate across the sports world, often leads to a discussion about whether stars of the past would have done the same thing. In an appearance Sirius XM NBA Radio, Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird discussed whether he would have considered teaming up with rival Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers:
…when these players get together and go play it just makes them a lot stronger. But that’s why we have free agency. If they stay within the rules I have no problem with it and I’m happy for them but you like to be on a team where you can be competitive. I know back in the day I couldn’t imagine going to the Lakers and playing with Magic Johnson. I’d rather try to beat him.
Sentiments like the ones expressed by Bird have furthered the backlash against Durant and his decision. While Bird did admit that part of the reason why he wouldn’t consider leaving Boston if he had the option was because he already had a great team around him, the same could be said of Durant’s Thunder squad.
For the Lakers, the realization that today’s stars are cut from a different cloth than those of the previous generation appears to be setting in. Knowing that stars only want to join other stars on winning teams and that the Los Angeles market isn’t as powerful as it once was due to social media, the Lakers have taken steps this summer to acquire veterans who will help develop their young talent. They also brought in player-friendly young coach Luke Walton to help relate to the next generation.
Should D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, or Larry Nance Jr. become a star (or be traded for one), the team will hope to be a major player for marquee free agents once again.