KEVIN Durant had plenty of firsts on Monday (Tuesday, Manila time) after winning his first NBA title as the Golden State Warriors finished off the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5, 129-120, to close the best-of-seven championship series, 4-1, at Oakland.
Durant also nabbed his first Finals MVP with another spectacular run in his return to the NBA’s biggest stage. The lanky forward averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists to take home the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy. He also had unreal efficiency with 55.6% field goal shooting, 47.4% from beyond the arc and 92.7% from the stripe.
In the closeout game, Durant also put in a dagger of a performance with 39 points, becoming the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to put together five straight 30-point games in the NBA Finals.
To cap this momentous occasion for the first-time champ, Nike released a fitting ad highlighting all the criticism Durant has gotten in his entire career, from ‘too weak,’ ‘soft’ to ‘no defense’ which intensified when he joined the Warriors before the season began. ‘Cupcake,’ ‘traitor,’ ‘crybaby’ then got hurled at Durant, until the ad sent a chilling message in the end - ‘Debate this’ - after he won his first title.
On the court, though, Durant was a little more gracious towards his opponents, praising the tandem of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving before heaping praise on the Cavs’ 4-time MVP and 3-time champ James. Both men have faced off in the 2012 Finals when James’ Miami Heat beat Durant’s OKC Thunder.
“I couldn’t sleep for two days I was anxious, I was jittery. I just wanted to lay it all out there. I put in work. I just had to trust in it. We were really good tonight,” he told Doris Burke after the game. "You’ve gotta tip your hat to Cleveland, man. They kept us up all night. LeBron (James) and Kyrie (Irving), I’ve never seen nothing like them two before. But we prevailed, and it’s amazing to do it on our own floor.
“He’s the only person that I was looking at since 2012. He’s the only one I looked at. So he is the only guy who can look me eye-to-eye. And I knew it was going to be a battle. I was trying to challenge him. He averaged a (dang) triple-double. You can’t stop the guy,” Durant added of James who averaged a triple-double with 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
“But we battled, man. We battled. I told him, ‘We’re tied up now’ — and we’re going to try to do this thing again, but I’m gonna celebrate this one tonight.”