The embrace was a symbolic gesture that represented so much more than a simple passing of the torch from a four-time NBA champion to a kid who might one day establish his own dynasty.
After he dribbled out the closing seconds of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s series-clinching Game 6 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, Kevin Durant lifted his hand and gave that quintessential, Michael-Jordan-like celebratory fist-pump. Tim Duncan tracked down Durant, whispered some encouraging words into his ear and let Durant go, understanding that his last-best shot an NBA championship had been snatched away by an unassuming but lethal superstar cut from a similar cloth.
“He told me congrats and good luck. I respect Tim Duncan and the whole organization so much,” Durant said after scoring 34 points to lead the Thunder into the NBA Finals for the first time since the franchise bolted Seattle four years ago. “They do things the right way. They play the game the right way. They’re a family.”
Durant wants to establish a similar situation in Oklahoma City. And, the reason that the Thunder has been able to copy the Spurs’ model for small-market success so well was because it has a general manager in Sam Presti who learned the San Antonio way during an earlier apprenticeship and a star in Durant who – like Duncan – isn’t attracted to the bright and shiny things that a bigger market theoretically can provide.
– Reported by Michael Lee of the Washington Post (Blog)