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2016 NBA Free Agency

‘Strength In Numbers’ convinced Kevin Durant to join Warriors

Full-court press by Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, Kerr and Jerry West sealed the deal

Kevin Durant didn’t say a lot during his meeting with the Golden State Warriors last Friday. The NBA’s most coveted free agent, however, did have one particular question that he posed to the Warriors’ core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala while at a mansion in The Hamptons:

Could he mess up the Warriors’ team camaraderie and chemistry?

The very well-prepared Warriors collectively answered a question with a question and their team motto in mind.

“We asked him how many championships do you think we can win with the way the team is now? How many championships can you win without us? How many do you think we can win together?” Green told The Undefeated.

The Warriors’ motto through their 2015 NBA championship run and their devastating loss in the 2016 NBA Finals to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers was “Strength In Numbers.” And it’s that mentality that certainly played a role in Durant offering early fireworks to the NBA world on the Fourth of July with news that he would be departing the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the already supremely talented Warriors.

The Warriors not only brought their core four players, but coach Steve Kerr, general manager Bob Myers, owner Joe Lacob and assistant general manager Kirk Lacob, too, to talk to Durant. Having been USA Basketball teammates with him, Curry and Iguodala were most confident and comfortable speaking to Durant from a players’ standpoint about what life as a Warrior would be like on the court for him. Green also said they sold Durant on “culture, dynasty and style of play” with a team that won an NBA-record 73 games last season without him.

It must not be forgotten that Durant strongly had previously said winning was most important to him in his free-agency decision and a friend said he had previously inquired about Bay Area life. The Warriors also told the 2014 NBA MVP that open 3-pointers were awaiting him in Golden State, along with all their other weapons. They added that unselfishness and a will to not just win, but to win championships, was waiting for him in Oakland, California, too. With Durant, perhaps these already score-thirsty Warriors could be even more imposing than Magic Johnson’s “Showtime Lakers” or Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls.

“We told him he didn’t have to change who he is. He doesn’t have to change how he plays. We will get him shots. If he shot 40 percent from 3-point line contested, how would he shoot wide open?” Green said.

The Warriors’ meeting with Durant lasted about two hours with the “main pitch” being winning championships together, Green said. Green added that he felt very good about that meeting since the vibe in the room was perfect with the right mix of voices. Even so, Curry apparently felt it necessary to send Durant a message hours after the meeting Friday night to reassure him about his commitment to “Strength In Numbers” and unselfishness.

According to a person who saw the text messages, Curry told Durant in a text message that he could care less about who is the face of the franchise, who gets the most recognition or who sells the most shoes (Curry is with Under Armor, Durant with Nike). The two-time NBA MVP also told Durant that if Durant won the MVP award again he would be in the front row of the press conference clapping for him. In closing, Curry’s message to Durant was that all he truly cared about was winning championships and he’d like to do that as his teammate.

To push the Warriors’ sales pitch even further, Durant got a phone call from Hall of Famer and Warriors consultant Jerry West on Saturday. West had previously convinced the now retired NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal to join the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996. According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, West told Durant that he would be the perfect fit for the Warriors at small forward and that West’s own 1-7 record in the NBA Finals with the Lakers still haunts him. Durant lost his lone NBA Finals appearance in 2012.

When asked what was the key to landing Durant, one high-ranking Warriors executive said: “Jerry West … Everyone telling [Durant] he’d be on equal footing. No stars.”

Green woke up on the Fourth of July liking the Warriors’ chances, but also would not have been surprised if Durant returned to Oklahoma City. Green, however, got the stunning word about Durant’s decision just “20 seconds before it went public” via a text message from his new teammate’s childhood friend and business manager, Charlie Bell. Less than a minute later, Green’s phone was wildly abuzz with congratulatory text messages.

The “Strength In Numbers” sales pitch worked as the Warriors’ immediately became next season’s championship favorite with Durant saying yes to their “brotherhood.”

“I’m excited about the opportunity to add one of the best players in the world to our team and welcome him to our brotherhood,” Green said. “This will be some of the best times of our lives and I’m looking forward to it.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.