Kevin Durant lands NBA Finals MVP in LeBron James role reversal five years on
Warriors star contributes 39 points in 122-110 game-five title clincher over the Cavaliers to claim his first title, after James’ Heat had denied him in 2012
In 2012, LeBron James sought out Kevin Durant after the Miami Heat had wrapped up a 4-1 NBA Finals series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
James, who was named Finals MVP then, hugged Durant in a warm embrace after securing his first NBA championship.
Five years on, the roles were reversed at Oracle Arena in Oakland when the two hugged each other again.
“He’s the only guy I was looking at since 2012. He’s the only guy who could look me eye-to-eye,” Durant said of his close friend, after leading the way in the Golden State Warriors’ 4-1 series win over James’ defending champions the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In his first season since joining the Warriors as a free agent from the Thunder in one of the most debated moves in NBA history, Durant was named Finals MVP after averaging 35.2 points in the series.
He contributed 39 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the 129-120 game-five title clincher, claiming his first NBA title as the Warriors’ won their second in three seasons.
During their embrace this time around, Durant lifted his hand to his mouth and spoke in James’ ear.
“I told him we’re tied up now and we’re going to try to do this thing again, but I’m going to celebrate this one tonight,” Durant revealed of their conversation.
“I knew it was going to be a battle. I just tried to challenge him ... you can’t stop the guy, but we battled.”
At his postgame media conference, James was asked if he felt happy for his friend winning his first NBA championship.
“Well I’m not happy he won his first, I’m not happy at all,” James said. “From when I played him in the 2012 Finals to now ... experience is the best teacher in life, and he’s just experiencing and experiencing and experiencing.”
“It also helps,” James added with a chuckle, as he paused to carefully choose his next words, “when you are able to experience some things with this team as well.”
The game-five victory over the Cavs capped an emotional journey for Durant, who spent nine years with the Thunder and was part of the side that blew a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals last year.
With fans and pundits questioning the motivations behind his move last summer, Durant had simply said he came to an already star-studded Warriors lineup to win championships.
“He felt like he needed to reassemble and reassess his career and come here,” continued James.
“Getting that first championship was for me like having my first son. Just a proud moment, something you’ll never forget. No matter what anybody say, they can never take that away that you’re a champion. It may be the last thing they say, but they’re always gonna have to say you’re a champion.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 13, 2017
Durant is just the third player since 1969 to win the Finals MVP honour in their first season with a team.
His crucial game three-winning ‘dagger’ shot on the road in Cleveland had put the Warriors on the brink of the title with a 3-0 lead.
The Cavs kept the series alive by winning their second home game of the series, and the nerves likely started creeping in among Warriors fans after the visitors led for much of the first half in game five in Oakland.
Memories of the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead in last year’s Finals surely came flooding back. They couldn’t throw it away again, could they?
“I couldn’t sleep for two days,” said Durant. “I was anxious. I was jittery. I just wanted to put it all out there.
“We battled. But we did it. We’re champions. And we’re celebrating on our home court.
“I’m just so happy to be a part of it, man. I can’t wait to celebrate with my teammates in the locker room.”
After doing what he came to Golden State to do, Durant was asked if he had any words for his mother, who was in attendance close by.
“We did it,” Durant said. “I told you when I was eight years old. We did it.”