There are a lot of superteams in the NBA past. A glimpse into recent history recalls teams like the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, Duncan/Robinson Spurs, LeBron/Wade Heat, just to name a few. But none of them has seen a perfect mesh of two superstars in their absolute prime. Kobe wasn’t full Mamba yet. Tim Duncan didn’t reach the height of his powers until Robinson retired. And Wade was already on his downswing and LeBron was the clear leader. Between Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, there is no discernible difference between who is at their peak. Both are spectacular specimens on the hardwood, unstoppable together, fully entertaining and unleashed by themselves. And it’s Kevin Durant’s turn.
Durant missed over a month at the end of last season and the Golden State Warriors turned in a 14-game winning streak. With a few injuries here and there this season, Steph has stepped up easily and mirrored his MVP seasons. With Curry now out an extended period of time, Durant has found his MVP season play.
In back-to-back games, Durant has been far and away the man in charge. The offensive explosions aren’t there, the volatility isn’t the same with Curry, hell, it’s certainly as exciting. But the measured trek the Warriors take to dismantle their opponents has one imagining the force the Warriors are creating. Without Steph, they are a complete defensive wall, collapsing and swarming any and all comers. Draymond Green had 6 blocks but Durant punished Reggie Jackson at the rim in crunchtime and Anthony Tolliver to lead a transition clinching dunk. The Warriors go with Durant not only offense but as a defensive army.
35-11-10. 36-10-7-5. If there ever was a time that Durant would start to pick up a fanbase that clamors specifically for the likes of Steph and Draymond above all else, now is the perfect moment. It isn’t about being 20-6. It isn’t about being a superb defense that’s still underrated when the masses are judging this era of the Warriors. It’s about the aesthetic pleasure of witnessing greatness full-fledged. With both stars at their peak, they are taking too many bites at a small apple. With one out, the other creates the visual greatness that we see now, and in moments when Curry is on the floor by himself.
It’s not a sustainable method to success. Ask James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Russell Westbrook. Even Kawhi Leonard struggles being the only superstar on his team. The Warriors have created a culture that allows, and invites, both players to function around each other.
But it’s these moments during a regular season that can draw much too long that make it memorable. It’s the rockback hesi crossover, twice, into a pullup jumper. It’s the weakside anticipation that engulfs a driver’s shot in midair. It’s Durant’s slow gait into the paint that sees him one second at the free throw line, and in the next, finishing at the cup.
And for Golden State Warriors fans, it’s the beginning and middle of an increasingly exciting and memorable Kevin Durant journey in a Warriors jersey.