Kevin Durant was named the 2017 Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP following the Warriors’ Game 5 elimination victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. He capped off the series with a 39-point performance to lead the Warriors to a 129-120 win.
“It’s a team sport, and we want to achieve the highest honor in a team sport, which is winning a championship. And to do it with these guys is amazing,” Durant said upon accepting the award.
Durant became the most efficient scorer in NBA Finals history in the process. He is the first player to ever average more than 30 points per game in the Finals on better than 50 percent shooting from both the field, 47 percent from the three-point line, and 90 percent shooting from the foul line.
Durant went through a lot to hoist that trophy.
After a season playing under scrutiny like we’ve rarely seen, Durant lifted the most important trophy in basketball after the most important game of the season.
First, he had to leave Russell Westbrook, the Thunder organization, and the Oklahoma City community he held so dearly to his heart during the offseason. Then, he had to absorb the criticism that came with joining the same Warriors team that eliminated his Thunder in last year’s Western Conference Finals.
There was even drama during the regular season.
Some weren’t sure if Durant and Stephen Curry could coexist down the season’s stretch. Others saw Draymond Green and Durant getting into an animated conversation during a midseason loss and took it as a turn for the worst. The Warriors even went on a 14-game winning streak after Durant went down with an MCL injury during the season. If he was so great, the argument went, then why did the Warriors excel without him?
Durant proved why he and Golden State were a perfect fit in the playoffs, especially during Game 3 in Cleveland. For a game that was largely controlled by the Cavaliers, it was Durant who took over in the final three minutes. Durant iced the Cavaliers with a cold, game-winning pull-up three-pointer over LeBron James’ arm. That was the moment he’d come to Golden State to secure.
While the Warriors dropped Game 4 to find themselves with another 3-1 lead against James, it was Durant who proved again why he and the Warriors needed each other. In Game 5, Durant scored his 39 points on just 20 shot attempts in classic effort of killer efficiency.
Now, he has been named NBA Finals MVP, and is the top dog for a Warriors team that looks more like a dynasty each game. And if Durant’s game continues to evolve alongside this cast of selfless, defense-first Warriors teammates, this Bill Russell trophy won’t likely be the last one Durant holds high.