SAN FRANCISCO — Kevin Durant emerged from the locker room Saturday afternoon and took the court at Chase Center 66 minutes before tipping off against his former team.
For the first time since 2019, the two-time Finals MVP and two-time champion was back in the Bay Area.
On his way to the Brooklyn Nets’ side of the basket to begin his pregame workout routine, he had to pass by the Golden State Warriors’ basket.
Stephen Curry was shooting at the time.
The 7-foot star was all smiles, stopping to greet Warriors development coaches Aaron Miles and Luke Loucks with hugs.
He continued walking and ran into longtime Warriors head of security official Ralph Walker. The two embraced and chatted momentarily.
Approximately 15 minutes after completing his workout, Durant moseyed to the Warriors’ bench to exchange pleasantries with assistant coaches Ron Adams and Chris DeMarco.
Adams had the longest pregame chat with Durant. The soon-to-be 11-time All-Star always thought highly of Adams’ basketball acumen and appreciated his delivery method.
Curry and Durant eventually caught up and shared a laugh on the court. These two were one of the most lethal duos in NBA history who used to have some of the most legendary, fierce shooting competitions in practices.
It’s unlikely Durant will ever suit up for the Warriors again, but the focus of the evening aside from winning a game, was to show Durant how much he’s appreciated.
In his three seasons of calling the Bay Area home, the franchise that he guided to two championships did all it could to express and convince him that he was a valued component of its history.
They showered him with praise and adoration, although some of it was over the top in his estimate because he just wanted to play ball and blend in with the rest of the players.
But the Warriors witnessed Durant’s treatment when he returned to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder for the first time.
There was no tribute conducted for him, and LeBron James and Durant are the only two players who know what it’s like to play in front of such an hostile environment filled with venom that was once home.
Durant had given so much to the Thunder and the community. He was deeply hurt. The Warriors saw it.
On Saturday during the first timeout of the game, the Warriors played a one-minute tribute video for Durant comprised of his biggest moments with the club. Durant never looked up to watch as he was focusing on the instructions of head coach Steve Nash in the huddle. But when he walked back on the floor, he acknowledged with the waving of his hand the few family, fans and team staff in attendance who were applauding.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 14, 2021
Knowing Durant, he enjoyed it.
“Tribute video was cool,” Durant said after the Nets’ 134-117 victory in which he had 20 points, five rebounds and six assists. “I think about those moments daily. Every single moment I have in this league I think about it and try to analyze it and get better from it. My time here in Golden State was so much fun, such a big learning experience, especially learning the game of basketball different, a different philosophy. I'm going to take that with me for the rest of my life. The tribute video was cool, but I'm always replaying those moments in my head.”
Durant took a lot of flack for his decision to join the Warriors in 2016. It was a move that was never universally embraced. Yet still Durant immersed himself into community.
His impact in the Bay Area in such a short time is incomparable.
He started an annual holiday program with $50,000 in grants that supported the Oakland Elizabeth House — which offers a residence to women with children who have experienced the poverty of homelessness, violence and addiction — and Larkin Street Youth Services that provides homeless youth with health care, housing, employment and education.
He renovated six basketball courts at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, Lincoln Square Park in Oakland, Hunters Point in San Francisco and Hayes Valley Playground in San Francisco.
He provided $74,000 in scholarships that covered a full first-year tuition for the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula students entering college and a $10,000 grant was issued to the Silicon Valley De-Bug, a community-based justice organization.
He donated shoes to support the Northern California Wildfire Relief, hosted eight Make-A-Wish kids at Warriors games between 2017-19 and over 800 children and families attended Warriors home games via donated tickets.
Durant dominated on and off the court for the Warriors. His presence in the Bay Area might not have been well received, but his presence was certainly felt in a multitude of ways.
He’s no longer on their side, but the Warriors were doing something on Saturday that they were doing while he was on their side: telling him how much he’s appreciated.
“It was great to see Kevin tonight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We are all so happy for him that he’s healthy and playing at such a high level and he looks very happy. We are excited and happy to see him doing well. It would’ve been great to have fans here to welcome him back and thank him for his three years here, but obviously, with the pandemic, a different situation.”
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