Kevin Durant shifted the balance of power in the NBA on Monday, signing with the Golden State Warriors in a two-year, $54.3 million deal.
The sports world exploded with shock on social media, trying to figure out why Durant joined forces with the team that defeated his former Oklahoma City Thunder in this year’s Western Conference Finals.
Durant’s signing can now be counted along with other shocking NBA free agency moves, with previous off-seasons featuring LeBron James joining the Miami Heat and returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
1. Kevin Durant Joins The Warriors
When James joined forces with Heat players Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in 2010, it was arguably the most shocking off-season move in NBA history. James infamously announced he would “take his talents to South Beach” on an ESPN special called “The Decision,” and it seemed like Cleveland would never forgive him.
Similar to Cleveland, Oklahoma City fans are now shocked and saddened by the loss of Durant. The Thunder are the city’s pride and joy, and Durant was the face of the team.
Durant seeks multiple championships with Golden State, apparently joining the team he couldn’t beat in OKC.
KD could’ve gone to any other team—and he wouldn’t have received as much ridicule. But the fact he opted for the team with the greatest regular season record ever, a team that was one Finals win away from repeating as champs, makes his move even more jaw dropping.
2. LeBron James Goes To Miami
James taking his talents to the Heat is still one of the most disruptive moves in NBA history.
Seeking a better supporting cast, James teamed up with Bosh and Wade in 2010, and the trio won back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.
The move was shocking enough, but it was the way he left that made Clevelanders angry. He announced he would go to Miami on national television. Fans burned his jersey, and the former banner that read “We Are All Witnesses” with James doing his famous powder toss was taken down.
Like Durant with the Thunder, James was the face of the Cavs. During his first stint with the team, he led them to a Finals appearance in 2007, the first in team history. The San Antonio Spurs swept the Cavs, and they wouldn’t return to the Finals until 2015.
3. LeBron James Returns To Cleveland
James surely knows how to market himself. After announcing his move to South Beach on ESPN, he wrote about his return to Cleveland in an essay with Lee Jenkins for Sports Ilustrated.
In the essay, entitled “I’m Coming Home,” James expressed his desire to win a championship for Cleveland. He returned home in 2014 and led the Cavs to the Finals in his first season. The Cavs lost to the Warriors in six games.
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But they got back to the Finals to play the Warriors in 2016, battled back from a 3-1 deficit and won the NBA championship. James kept his promise to bring a title to a city that hadn’t seen a major professional sports championship in 52 years.
4. Shaq Signs $120 Million Contract With Lakers
Shaquille O’Neal was ahead of time.
Like Durant and James, who left the teams that drafted them to seek championships, O’Neal left the Orlando Magic to play with an established franchise in the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1996, O’Neal signed a seven-year, $120 million contract with the Lakers.
The Magic thought they had offered O’Neal a better deal, reportedly $130 million, but O’Neal wanted a ring more than more money.
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O’Neal’s career with the Magic was reminiscent of Dwight Howard’s stint with the team. Both big men led the Magic to one Finals appearance. O’Neal took them to the Finals in 1995, losing to the Houston Rockets in four games.
5. DeAndre Jordan Says He’ll Sign With Mavericks, Returns To Clippers
Last off-season, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan pulled off the ultimate “never mind.” Jordan verbally committed to a four-year, $80 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
The operative word is verbally.
At the time, the NBA’s moratorium period made free agents wait 10 days before officially signing with a team. Usually, that’s just a formality, as most free agents keep their commitments.
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Jordan, however, did not honor his verbal commitment. Members of the Clippers organization went to Jordan’s house in Houston and wouldn’t let him leave until he re-signed with the team.
Jordan reneged on his commitment with the Mavs, returning to the Clippers in one of the most bizarre moves in NBA history.