Now, that is not to give the impression that losing is okay, but for a player such as Durant, this should be expected as part of the maturation process of winning that first title.
Quite a few of the game’s greats have suffered heartbreak.
Isiah Thomas is the first player that comes to mind. He and his Detroit Pistons struggled to get through Larry Bird’s Celtics in the mid 80s. In the 1988 NBA Playoffs, Thomas and Co. seemed poised to capture the NBA Championship, only to no avail.
Detroit had a 3-2 series lead on Magic Johnson’s Lakers. On a severely sprained ankle, Thomas scored 25 points in one quarter, but the Pistons lost the game after a pair of free throws from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Detroit went on to lose in game seven. Finally, next season, Thomas captured the gold.
What about the legendary Michael Jordan?
During the 1985-86 season, Jordan recovered from a broken foot to face the Boston Celtics – a team that is considered one of the best teams ever in NBA history. He scored an NBA playoff record 63 points in a loss. Jordan and the Bulls were swept. In fact, the Bulls were swept again by Boston the following year.
And who can forget about the three consecutive years Jordan suffered defeat to the Pistons, afterwards?
It took Jordan seven years to win his first championship. If he didn’t win early, then there clearly shouldn’t be any shame for anyone.
Let’s not stop there. Kobe Bryant had some maturing to do too. In his rookie year, Bryant found himself in the NBA Playoffs versus the Utah Jazz. If fans thought he always had the clutch gene, think again. He missed a plethora of crucial shots down the stretch – four to be exact. Not only did he miss them, he airballed them. The Jazz went on to eliminate the Lakers. Five titles later, and it is all a blur.
How about last season? You know, when the Dallas Mavericks won the championship over this very same Miami Heat team?
Dirk Nowitzki was the superstar who suffered vast amounts of criticism for is inability to deliver the goods. He was viewed as ‘soft’ and ‘mentally weak.’
In the 2006-07 campaign, his team lost to the number eight seed in the Golden State Warriors. Keep in mind, the Mavericks had the league’s best record that year. Not to mention the year before, Dallas blew a 2-0 series lead and lost the title to the Heat, thanks to Dwayne Wade’s incredible play.
It could not have been set up any better for Dirk as he dished out sweet revenge in last year’s NBA Finals en route to Finals MVP. It has been said that Nowitzki never looked as focused as he did last season.
And the player Durant lost the gold to: LeBron James.
In 2007, James advanced to the NBA Finals at the tender age of 22 – younger than Durant. His team was swept by the Spurs in his first appearance. The next season, LeBron suffered heartbreak by falling short to the Celtics in Game 7 while scoring 45 points. His number one overall seeded Cavs lost in six games to the hard-charging Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. This was after the Cavs swept the first two rounds in the playoffs.The point is, it was not easy for him either.
Remember what Tim Duncan proclaimed to LeBron after being swept? I believe his words were “this is going to be your league soon.”
Well, that time is now. LeBron and Co. will probably repeat, but make no mistake about it, the same thing can certainly be said for Durant as he recovers from this loss. He is only 23. He has plenty of time.
Follow on Twitter @MidwayLC