Draymond Green wrangled a monumental, franchise-altering commitment out of Kevin Durant earlier than anyone had previously realized.
Green got in touch with Durant before he even changed out of his uniform following Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
(KD, for what it’s worth, has called the tale “100 percent false.”)
— Lee Jenkins (@SI_LeeJenkins) June 13, 2017
And so, at that locker, in that uniform, less than an hour after the most excruciating loss of his life, Green punched up Kevin Durant’s number. “See what we’re missing,” Green says, recounting the text message he sent Durant. “We need you. Make it happen.” Green had been courting Durant for months, but this was his strongest pitch yet, delivered at the most dramatic juncture. “Right after you lose Game 7,” Green says, “shows you’re serious.” Of course the Warriors did not need Durant, not really. They had gone 73–9 without him. But Green would leave nothing to chance. Neither, it turned out, would Durant.
The modern megastar is born with basketball’s version of a biological clock, and if ringless at 27, the ticking grows louder than Oracle at tip-off. No one—not even James Harden or Russell Westbrook—can fathom the unique form of pressure placed on the highest class of NBA headliner. It comes from the corporate sponsors, paying the nine-figure shoe contracts, all the way down to the neighborhood friends. “My mom can’t relate,” says Durant. “My dad can’t relate. My brothers can’t relate. There’s probably one guy in the history of the league who really understands.” [LeBron] James, after seven empty seasons in Cleveland, followed the incessant ticking to Miami. Now Durant was on the clock.
Green stared at his phone, waiting for a reply. Up to that point the Thunder were confident they would re‑sign Durant when he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1. One Oklahoma City official kept in touch with him through June and was encouraged by his upbeat tone. “The day Golden State lost, everything changed,” the official says. “The phone calls, the text messages, they were more distant.” The Warriors would have to endure a summer’s worth of mortifying memes—punishment for squandering a 3–1 Finals lead—but by the time Green peeled off his home whites and hit the showers, he could sense that his squad would laugh last. Durant’s response flashed across the screen: “I’m ready. Let’s do this.”