When it comes to NBA culture, Oklahoma City is not your normal town. That's a #DUH statement, right there.
Over the years, this theme about Oklahoma City being a family-friendly, Bible Belt kind of place has figured into the story of Kevin Durant, a superstar who has never hidden his faith, all the way back to his Christian high school. (I met him, briefly, when he was being recruited by Baylor and I was on campus for a speaking gig. He did a one-and-done thing with the University of Texas, of course.)
So now Durant has left family-values land to join the Golden State Warriors, heading to northern California and the hip, secular Bay Area to be specific. That's a big surprise and surely there isn't a faith angle to that outrageous move. Right?
Well, it appears that there is a link there. For example, check out the YouTube at the top of this post. Yes, it's over-the-top evangelical and not news material. But do you spot any Golden State Warriors in it? That brings me to this interesting passage in a feature -- "How the Warriors got Kevin Durant" -- at USA Today:
The Warriors had been hearing that Durant had eyes for their franchise for a while. ... Part of it was relationship-based, with Durant growing close with Warriors players in recent years -- none more so than Curry and super sixth man Andre Iguodala during the FIBA World Championships in 2010.
That brings us to the actual Golden State recruiting pitch:
... The second hour of the meeting was key, as Curry, Thompson, Green, and Iguodala had a players-only meeting of their own that also appears to have played a pivotal part. As ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss noted, Curry, Iguodala and Durant all bonded during chapel sessions that summer. Iguodala’s words appears to have left a mark.
It was like they were already sharing a locker room at Oracle Arena.
"Chapel" sessions? Might that be worth a follow-up question? So the team had chapel, or a Bible study, or prayer time, or what?
Now, a few other folks have noticed this connection. Note the following passage in a column by Marcus Thompson at The San Jose Mercury News:
Durant has had his eye on the Warriors for some time, per sources. He built a relationship with Curry, Thompson and Iguodala with Team USA in 2010. Durant, Curry and Iguodala have a connection as men of faith, and Draymond Green and Durant have grown friendly over the years.
I would assume that "men of faith" means you know what.
No one is claiming, of course, that Durant didn't have other motives. However, this is a case in which he appears to have left money on the table, since the Thunder were in a position to pay him more and, needless to say, Oklahoma is a better place when it comes to taxes. However, the Bay Area is a great place for a rich young investor to settle, in terms of business.
Then there are questions about basketball fit, the long-term future and whether -- on multiple levels -- Curry and Co. might be a better fit for Durant's personality and game than staying with the Thunder's mercurial Russell Westbrook. For those looking ahead, isn't Curry a free agent at the end of the year? And Durant is getting a player's option clause at the end of next year? That's leverage.
Some of that is covered in the massive ESPN explainer piece that ran under the headline, "Loyalty and OKC: What changed Durant's mind?" But, if you read the whole thing, the friendship and faith elements are missing. Where are the crucial relationships that formed six years ago, creating some ties between Durant, Curry and Iguodala? Might that have been PART of the change in Durant's head and heart?
I mean, someone at ESPN knew about this set of facts. As in, elsewhere on the website:
The momentous Kevin Durant announcement of July 4, 2016, was foreshadowed years earlier, before the Golden State Warriors commanded enough attention for people to notice.
Three years ago, Andre Iguodala joined the team that had just eliminated his squad from the playoffs, to considerably less criticism than Durant currently is receiving. Upon arriving in Golden State by way of Denver, Iguodala said this of Steph Curry in his first Oakland news conference on July 11, 2013:
"Steph and I played together in 2010 in Turkey, and after practice we would come back to the gym at night when we were overseas and just [get] some shots up. I believe it was Kevin Durant [who] was with us, a lot of the time. So it was us three, maybe one or two other guys, but us three were always together. Kinda got a chance to see him work. Knew how in love he was with the game, so we built a pretty good relationship. We had chapels together before every game so we definitely got to know each other.
"Us three were always together."
So the three of them "had chapels together" during that time. What does that mean? At the very least, it sounds like Bible study and private prayer. Maybe there are some ties that bind.
This might be a valid part of the biggest NBA story this off-season. You think? Did they pray together during the Golden State pitch meeting? Did anyone ask about that?