Phoenix Suns’ Kevin Durant can finish the job many before him could not
Charles Barkley delivered the laughs. Steve Nash started a revolution. Devin Booker and Chris Paul rekindled a love affair.
Kevin Durant can finish the job.
As the Valley swoons for Durant’s debut on Wednesday, the NBA superstar is in a great position to be our swooping savior, to deliver a basketball championship 55 years in the making, to a franchise old enough to qualify for the senior discount.
Durant comes to the Phoenix Suns with his own wanderlust legacy on the line. He is a celestial talent who has been tagged as a mercenary, the worst of the team-hopping title chasers. His biggest mistake was once joining a Warriors outfit that had set an NBA record for most regular season victories (73).
How will it feel if Durant is the centerpiece of some microwave, mad-dash championship in Arizona? If we’re suddenly staging a parade and commemorating a team that was together for just 20 regular season games? Will it be as good as promised? Or will it feel compromised, less than euphoric?
I think we’re all willing to find out.
I also think the Valley and Durant will become fast friends. He is a global superstar. We are a big-event, celebrity-obsessed sports town. He is the most towering addition to our sporting landscape since Randy Johnson, and that Big Unit brought a championship to Arizona.
Durant is joining an established culture and a basketball ecosystem full of respected leaders and like-minded teammates. At their core, Durant, Booker and Paul are hardcore, ruthless and stoic. They keep things serious. They don’t giggle much on a basketball court.
This team will be scrutinized by every judging eye the NBA can summon. They are a super team in presence and spirit, if not in detail. Every game they play will be an event.
Durant will receive a gladiator’s reception at Footprint Center, from a fan base clamoring for the ultimate prize, for the NBA’s holy grail. Durant was floored by the collegial vibe at his opening press conference, where he first encountered a fan base that is young, loud, diverse, energetic, and starving for validation. He might find the upcoming embrace to be far more intense and gratifying than he ever expected.
In return, Durant is giving the Suns exactly what they need: another elite scorer to alternately carry the offense through the most rigorous possessions of the postseason. That was their fatal flaw in the NBA Finals loss to the Bucks in 2021. And it was the fatal flaw in their loss to the Bucks on Sunday in Milwaukee, right down to Jrue Holiday’s endgame strip of Booker.
Steph Curry’s Warriors didn’t need another superstar to win a championship.
Booker’s Suns are another matter. They need Kevin Durant. We all need Kevin Durant. And if things go well, his legacy will be just fine by me.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.