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“It Feels Like When You Get Up Into a Roller Coaster and You Know You’re About to Have a Free Fall”

Kevin Durant is an NBA champion. Now he sits down with Bill Simmons to talk everything you could ever want to know about the Finals, the Warriors, and himself.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Kevin Durant finally has his ring, and on the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, he talked about his dream season. It’s really happened; this isn’t a dream — he even has the congratulatory text from Barack Obama to prove it.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Not Being Able to Sleep During the Finals

Simmons: I’m here with Finals MVP Kevin Durant who has not slept — is that true?

Kevin Durant: Yup, that’s true.

Simmons: When was the last time you had sleep?

Durant: In between Games 1 and 2. I haven’t had a good night of sleep since then.

Simmons: Because of nerves?

Durant: Anxiety.

Simmons: Anxiety? You were playing great!

Durant: I just wanted to know what was gonna happen the next game. How would everyone adjust, how I was gonna play — I was just so anxious to play. My thoughts were going everywhere. I couldn’t really sleep.

The Moment Durant Became an NBA Champion

Simmons: All right, let’s take Game 5. I was sitting pretty close, and you were walking towards where I was sitting near the end, and you just stopped and you put your hands on your knees. There was like a minute to go in the game, and it looked like either you were super tired or you got emotional or something, and [Iguodala] had to come over. Basketball was [still] going on. Something happened. What happened?

Durant: I mean at that point we had the game [in] hand. And I was just like, "Wow." Everybody was so loud in there. It was just so much happening at once. Knowing that you’re about to win the championship, playing so well and then the crowd on top of that gets to cheer you on as you’re becoming a champion, and like so many people are happy for you. It’s just emotional. They had to tell me to finish playing.

Simmons: You thought you were getting choked up?

Durant: Not choked up. It was just — it’s just one of those moments. It’s overwhelming, you know what I’m saying? I can’t really describe it. It feels like when so much is going on, you get lost a little bit. I didn’t handle that so well because I should have kept playing, but it was amazing.

Simmons: The only thing that it was missing was a sideline reporter asking you, "Kevin, what does this moment mean?"

Durant: I was waiting on that. I probably didn’t even know how to answer that question.

Simmons: All right, so you dreamt about it. So then it actually happens. Was it different than the dream? Was it the same as the dream? What was different about it?

(Getty Images)
Getty Images

Durant: Just how fast it all happened. As soon as the buzzer went off, it felt like everybody was on the court. And like, I didn’t even know who to go find. I didn’t know where my mom was. I was looking for my brother. Out of nowhere, everybody just appeared. It feels like when you get up into a roller coaster and you know you’re about to have a free fall, and you’re gonna feel something crazy. That’s exactly how it is. It’s like a quick thrill.

Simmons: It’s like 40 different things happening in five minutes and then like, near the end, there’s Bill Russell, the greatest winner of all time. He’s like, "Here. Here’s a trophy for you."

Durant: Yeah, it’s like an avalanche of happy moments. You look over and see Steph embracing his family. You see Draymond embracing his mom. His mom came out of nowhere and gave me a big hug. It’s like such a big family. Coach Kerr’s wife is there. His kid — like, it’s just so many people having just such happy moments. It just all made me smile. And then out of nowhere you see Bill Russell walking up on the podium. I’m like, "That’s a legend."

Simmons: What’d he say to you?

Durant: He was like, "Oh, you’re a pretty good player, huh?" And I was like, "If you say so."

Playing His Best Basketball Ever

Simmons: Did you think that was the best you’ve ever played? Those five games?

Durant: Yeah, I think so. You put together good games individually, but to put together good games individually and achieve team success is like nirvana. That’s what you always want as a basketball player. You want to play well, and you also want your team to win. I was able to just worry about trying to win, and my spirits were in the right place and it felt like … the basket was just getting wider and wider for me.

Simmons: Ooh.

Durant: I felt like I had a nice touch with all my shots, but just because I was in the right mind-set, locking in on defense, trying to do the small stuff first.

Simmons: When you were on my HBO show and I said how well you played on both ends in the Oklahoma City–Golden State series, you bristled. You were like, "I’ve been doing that my whole career." I thought your defense — I thought that was pretty much the best I’ve seen you play, two-way, in this series. You have to agree with that. … I mean you were basically playing center for some of the games and you had to worry about rim protection.

Durant: We play so small. Draymond at the 5; I’m at the 4. When I’m not guarding LeBron [James], I was guarding Kevin Love. And Kyrie [Irving] some possessions. So it was like I didn’t have a break. I had to be on alert with all of those guys. Kyle Korver, when he came into the game. J.R. Smith. And offensive rebounding, it’s like [Iman] Shumpert and Richard Jefferson. You gotta always be aware of them because they’re gonna cut. They’re gonna make the winning basketball plays outside of just making baskets. But then on top of that, they had shooters. So it was kind of hard to lock in on helping on LeBron when he’s driving but also knowing that he could whip a pass to the corner and hit a shooter. So I had to be on guard for every type of movement, from running around chasing Korver to Kyrie dribbling 10 times in a possession to get a basket, or LeBron trying to bully his way to the rim and Kevin Love trying to post me up. I was trying to worry about so many different ways to get a stop. That’s why I was so stressed. That’s why I couldn’t sleep. They had so many weapons.

Simmons: In Game 1, there was this play that everybody missed, but I think you scored and then Kyrie had the ball, and you just decided to guard him full court. You took him the whole way and he ended up throwing it off the backboard, I think. But I was like, "Man, KD is locked in. Now he thinks he can guard Kyrie full court."

Durant: Oh man, that’s probably the first and last time I do that. But I think throughout the season, though, I was picking guys up full court and I would feel that that would give our team energy.

Simmons: It worked.

Durant: I know I can’t do it every possession, but I try to throw it in there just to let them know that every once in a while, somebody might try to make you work full court.

Why the Warriors Play Zaza Pachulia So Much

Simmons: The Warriors fans were complaining, "Why is Zaza starting every game?" It seems like Kerr just wanted to have a bunch of different lineups so that it was never the same thing for more than six minutes.

Durant: Yeah, exactly. And we knew that, first of all, the way we move in our offense tires defenses out no matter what. So we knew we had Ian Clark, Pat McCaw, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston [coming off the bench]. They’re not the "clear out the way, iso them, let’s go get a basket" [kind of guys]. They tire other teams out and score when they’re not supposed to basically because they move around — they cut. They get layups, they get easy baskets, and they play defense. So it just overwhelms you with the way we play, and on top of that the IQ we have on the bench as well is the reason why we’re so deep.

How the Warriors Knew They Could Beat Cleveland

Simmons: The passing and the layups — that’s what stuck with me [about this team] more than the shooting. You have three of the greatest shooters of all time, but just the back doors — it was like some ’77 Blazers, ’86 Celtics old-school stuff.

Durant: We all watched Cleveland all year. Just watching how they play defense. And they pack the paint a lot and they were good on initial action, but after two or three passes, we found out we could get a lot of stuff on the back end because they’re not as disciplined after the first few passes as they should have been.

Simmons: The Celtics series was illuminating for that.

Durant: The Celtics exposed that a little bit. The Indiana series as well, they were getting a lot of open looks. We just passed the ball eight — sometimes eight or nine times in a possession. And that tires the defenses out. It’s not that we’re just saying, "Hey Steph, go score because you’re just way better than everybody." Or, "Klay, go score." Or me, "Just go score." [We] might have to iso one play, might have to run a pick and roll with me and Steph one play, and then you’re going to have the movement at the end. When that stuff bogs down we got the movement, and when the movement bogs down, now it makes us dangerous that we’ve got the iso again.

Simmons: When did you and Steph master how to do that high screen? What point in the season was that? Because by the Finals it was pretty much unstoppable.

Durant: We only really worked on it in the Finals. Because a lot of teams would have bigger guys on Steph and they would just switch it. It would be hard to run it because they have a bigger guy on Steph, or they might just switch the point guard on me and load up. But Cleveland knew that if they switched Kyrie on me I would, you know —

Simmons: You could take him down.

Durant: I could score in the post or I was going to try to get him some fouls. They were showing on the pick-and-roll and I was just slipping out, and if you put two on the ball against us and you give us a free lane, it’s a lob or it’s a 3 because we’ve got smart players. So we were just trying to milk that.

But Actually Beating Cleveland Was Never Easy

Simmons: I thought it was one of the smartest basketball series I’ve ever watched because the teams knew each other really well. Each of you had things that the other team couldn’t stop, and there were certain matchups that you knew you could go to. It was almost like watching a football game where it’s like at halftime: "Oh, we gotta start running up the ball up the middle. We gotta bring the linebacker over." And basketball is not normally at that level. I thought the series was amazing.

Durant: Games 1 and 2 — we didn’t just start off just killing them. We had to really work for those leads we had.

Simmons: The first half of Game 1 was like a Game 7.

Durant: Yeah, that’s what I’m telling you. It was back and forth. We were missing layups, they were struggling to score, like it was just a battle. And then we pulled away. We were up [eight points at the half] in Game 1, then we pulled away in the third. Every game we always told ourselves, "Take the first punch, play well in the first punch, and then after that, we gonna see where they are." Because, you know, they always used to come out super strong, so they didn’t really pace themselves. They just always wanted to blitz us early.

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Simmons: I didn’t understand that strategy.

Durant: It worked for them.

Simmons: LeBron was wearing down in every fourth quarter. It seemed like he had so much energy in the first half, and by the fourth quarter you could see it. He just wasn’t moving the same.

Durant: LeBron plays with force, and he plays downhill. So when you, as a coach, say you need to up the pace, upping the pace is him just getting downhill, getting to the rim. And that’s taxing. And then especially having to guard, too, down on the other end, guard us with the way we move. So it was like, you’re coming out the gates real, real strong, real, real fast, and at some point you’ll start to level off.

Simmons: You guys love that, though. If they’re going to play at that pace, that’s like the greatest thing ever for you.

Durant: I mean, it was hard. We had to be almost perfect on the offensive end, though, because they were moving so fast and scoring so fast. It was like we had to match it, and guys came through and knocked down shots.

On That Durant-LeBron Scuffle

Simmons: You versus LeBron. There’s a couple times when you guys are barking at each other. And I always try to read lips, try to figure out what everyone is saying. He’s got that mouthpiece in, it’s impossible. What’s going on? Are you guys just like swearing at each other?

Durant: No.

Simmons: What’s happening? Because you guys are friends, too.

Durant: Yeah, but I’m friends with a lot of guys. I mean, and I don’t really talk to them throughout the games like that.

Simmons: Well, he’s the one who does most of the talking.

Durant: It was more so about our teammates. Our teammates had got into some stuff and [we were] trying to just play. And he was telling me they just wanna hoop. I was like, "That’s all we want to do, too, so let’s just play." All the extra stuff really doesn’t matter. Y’all playing physical which is cool, but like, extra stuff — let’s just play. He was like, "Yeah, you right."

Simmons: Each time you seemed amused by it, that LeBron was so agitated.

Durant: I wouldn’t say he was agitated.

Simmons: What was he then?

Durant: The stoppage in play — I don’t think anybody really likes that. When you get into scuffles, they gotta go do so much reviewing and so much trying to analyze.

And That David West–Tristan Thompson Scuffle

Simmons: Well, David West almost turned into the Incredible Hulk.

Durant: Yo, I’m telling you man, he was fiery.

Simmons: He got really angry. I was scared. I was scared for everybody in my section.

Durant: He’s intense, man. He’s intense.

The Deal With That Durant-LeBron Rap Track

Simmons: All right, so you versus LeBron after this series: Do you talk to him this summer? What happens?

Durant: Nah, probably—

Simmons: You just hug after the game and that’s it?

Durant: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I don’t know what we’re supposed to do.

Simmons: I can’t tell how good of friends anybody is. Like, the story came out that you guys did a song together in [2011].

Durant: Yeah, that was seven years ago. I mean, I was 21 years old.

Did He Really Date the Bachelorette?

Simmons: It came out you might have dated [Rachel Lindsay], the Bachelorette. You might not have.

Durant: Oh man, that was a long time ago, too.

Simmons: What was that story?

Durant: I don’t even know.

Simmons: Did you go on a date with her?

Durant: Nah, I didn’t.

Simmons: It was an Us Weekly story. They said you went on a date.

Durant: Nah. We actually would see each other probably once a week in college. Like, we never really hung out at all. That’s how I know her.

Missing Out on a 16–0 Postseason

Simmons: Did the 16–0 matter to you guys? Or did you just want to win the title?

Durant: It didn’t matter, but now that you think back on it, like it would have been cool to finish it. But as long as we got to 16 wins, that’s what we were worried about. And there were a few games where we probably should have lost, but we ended up sticking together at the end and finishing off. The Game 3 in Portland. I didn’t play that game, but we were down big early in that game. And also in Utah on the road we were down nine, 10 points in the third.

Simmons: I still feel like everyone points to the Kawhi [Leonard] game when Kawhi got hurt.

Durant: Yeah, that was probably a game we probably would have lost.

Simmons: I think you guys were gonna win that game. Even before Kawhi got hurt.

Durant: I feel like we were on the way to coming back.

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Simmons: You could see it was going to happen.

Durant: We had some struggles. Utah series was a tough one. We were winning games but it was just like, they were switching everything. They were running sets all the way through, they had a big shot blocker, so it was kind of hard to really get into the paint. They were a tough team. They’re going to be really good. I like Utah.

Simmons: If they stay together.

Durant: If they keep that team. Yeah, that’s the thing.

Simmons: You know how this game goes.

Durant: Yeah, I know.

Yes, He’s Staying With Golden State

Simmons: You could be a free agent if you wanted, but I’ve heard that you’re staying. There’s word on the street.

Durant: Why wouldn’t I?

Simmons: Word on the street is you might stay. Why would you leave one of the best teams anybody has ever seen? That would be a bad career move.

Durant: Yeah, a team that just won a championship.

Simmons: I would recommend against it, unless you came to Boston. Then I’d be all for it.

Durant: Nah, I’m good.

Durant’s Game-3 Winner

Simmons: You went off at the end and that became your signature game. Like, you realize that’s going to be the game people remember. And every great player has that game. In the moment I was like, "Oh! It’s the KD game. Here we go! This is it!"

Durant: I didn’t think it would go like that. I started off strong. I played well in the first half. I think I had probably 16 points.

Simmons: You just missed a couple shots that seemed like they would have gotten you going.

Durant: Yeah, but I was shooting a solid percentage. I was like 6-for-11. And I felt good on my shots. Then in that third quarter — that’s when I wasn’t aggressive.

Simmons: The crowd was loud as shit and they were going crazy, and the Cavs were playing really hard and I was like, "Oh." It was kind of how I thought Game 3 was going to go and I thought the Cavs either were gonna win or come close, and then you had the little fall-away on the baseline over Thompson, which was one of your old-school moves.

Durant: Yup.

Simmons: And then the 3 because tired LeBron forgot that you were dribbling right to your favorite spot.

Durant: It kind of all played out so perfectly. We were getting stops, we were forcing them to play one-on-one, and making them shoot over the top of us. And we rebounded. And coach didn’t call a timeout when we were down two with 45 seconds to go. We probably could have called a timeout and set up like a 2-for-1 or something. So he didn’t call a timeout and, like you said, I saw LeBron just heels behind the 3.

Simmons: I just want you to know at age 47, if we’re ever playing in pickup in a game with those stakes, I’m not letting you shoot from that spot. I’m stepping up three feet.

Durant: That’s the sweet spot.

Simmons: It might take me a while because I’m old and I have a bad back and bad knees, but I’m still gonna get to that spot before you do. I know exactly where your spot is.

Durant: I’m running there. It’s gonna be tough to stop it.

Simmons: LeBron realized it like a split-second late. And then Kyrie screwed up the 2-for-1, which was good for you. For the team.

Durant: That was perfect. They ran down like 11 seconds off the clock, too, so they didn’t have enough time. If they’d have fouled right away, then they’d have had a lot of time to go back and forth.

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Simmons: They screwed that game up. I think they had that game. Because J.R. missed the 3 too when they were up six.

Durant: They had some good shots they missed.

Simmons: They had good shots. Korver’s shot I defend to the death. That was a good play.

Durant: Yeah, that was a good shot. Good play.

Simmons: Like did you, when he takes that, think that’s probably going in?

Durant: Yeah, oh hell yeah. Steph got a solid contest but—

Simmons: He did.

Durant: He was making them anyway. Every time he got a look, it felt like it was going in.

What He Was Thinking When the Cavs Scored 49 to Open Game 4

Durant: We knew that they weren’t going to just let us sweep them on their home floor and celebrate and all. They wasn’t gonna go like that. They played an excellent basketball game as far as exploiting our weaknesses.

Simmons: 49 points is insane.

Durant: Yeah! And then 86 points at the half, I was like, "I’ve never seen that before."

Simmons: That’s an angry crowd. Is that the angriest crowd?

Durant: Man, Game 3 was crazy. I walked out, I was trying to keep my cool, I was trying to keep my head straight. I heard somebody behind the bench [say], "I can score 30 on that team!" And I was like, "Oh my gosh." It’s like, "come on, man."

How LeBron’s Game Has Changed Since 2012

Simmons: How is he different from 2012? What’s different about his game?

Durant: Just mentally, his game has changed because he found out he can do whatever he wants out there. He can score if he wants to, he can get everybody involved, he can create lanes, he can create mismatches. So he realized that and he’s just playing a chess game out there. That’s what all the really, really great players do. You try to match that, you know? You try to beat him, move for move, strategically throughout the series and your mind has to always be working. You can’t get distracted, and that’s what the great players make you do. He’s one of those.

How the Finals Were Like a Pickup Game

Simmons: Was there a point in Game 5 when you felt like you saw defeat in their eyes?

Durant: When we went up big in the second quarter, I felt like they were letting it slip away. They sensed they were letting it slip away and then they hit some timely 3s. So if they wouldn’t have hit those 3s, then I felt like we would have went into halftime with a clear hold onto the game, but they got some hope because of those two 3s — and that’s what you need somebody like J.R. Smith for. You just inject him in the game and he injects energy into the rest of the team.

Simmons: He’s like that guy playing pickup; the guy that just starts hitting shots. And you’re like, "Jesus, guard him." And then he hits like another one.

Durant: Exactly. That’s exactly how I looked at the whole series, too: like a pickup game. The type of players that you would play pickup with, like, it felt like they were all on the court. Like you get the big, strong fast bully who just runs to the rim like LeBron James. You get the dude that’s gonna dribble the whole possession and look sweet while doing it in Kyrie Irving. Then you get the big white guy who can rebound and shoot 3s: Kevin Love. It feels like it was a team created at 24 Hour Fitness. That’s how I was looking at it.

Simmons: Korver’s the white guy who just comes in and starts making shots.

Winning MVP and Steph’s Dominance

Simmons: You’re holding the trophy [during the whole celebration]?

Durant: I’m holding the trophy, yeah, and just making your rounds. There’s so many people just congratulating you, you know, you just appreciate the support. That’s when you really thank the people who hope and pray that you did well. You can appreciate them.

Simmons: Was it weird at all winning the Finals MVP with Curry standing right there?

Durant: No, it wasn’t at all. I felt like Steph was my biggest fan. And I was so happy the way he played.

Simmons: He was back to being Steph.

Durant: He looked great! He looked like one of the best players to ever touch the floor. To have that type of input in the Finals, he almost had a triple-double.

Simmons: His rebounding was the big surprise of the Finals.

Durant: Yeah. He was in there, we talked about that. In order for us to win, we had to rebound with them. Because they’re a beast on the boards, so he was coming in, getting rebounds, pushing the break and being patient in the pick-and-roll, turnovers down, taking good shots.

The Joy — Yeah, Joy — of Watching Kyrie Hit Miraculous Shots

Simmons: Steph vs. Kyrie, I don’t know if there’s ever been a better matchup of offensive point guards unless you count Isiah [Thomas] vs. Magic [Johnson]. Which I guess you’d have to. Magic, to me, he has no position.

Durant: And he was 6-foot-9. Isiah couldn’t guard him. That was a clear mismatch.

Simmons: I want you to know Kyrie hit like 13 of the greatest shots I’ve ever seen in my life in that series.

Durant: Oh my goodness, man. I was telling some of my friends right after Game 2. I was just like, "Kyrie just makes you happy. He makes you happy when you watch him play." You just smile when you watch him play. Because for somebody to be that skilled, you know he had to work tirelessly at it. The stuff he has in his package is next-level stuff that you can try to teach your kids to do, but you’ll never be able to do it. I never see anybody block his layups, and he’s 6-foot-2. I’ve never seen one person pin his layup on the glass. Not one. Because of the spin he got on it. I got so much respect for him, because I know how much work he put in to be that good. I’ve never seen nobody like him.

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Simmons: He’s like one of those cars that you can get. The car that has everything.

Durant: Yes. … His bag is full of tricks. His layup package is crazy.

Simmons: I think he’s the best offensive inside-out point guard I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if he’s the best all-around offensive point guard because that’s a different argument. I’m just saying he has more ways to score than any point guard I’ve ever seen. He can score anywhere from 28 feet in; he takes terrible 3s that go in routinely.

Durant: I’m with you. Pull-up J’s — he shoots his pull-up so quick.

How Durant Celebrated the Win

Simmons: Tell me what are the next five hours? Or the next 25 hours?

Durant: Well, after that, I took my pictures and you take the pictures with the trophies, and went back, showered up. Hopped in a car. Had all my friends and family at my house afterward, and we just hung out for a while and just talked and chilled and ate.

Simmons: Club? Then you went to the celebration party?

Durant: No, I didn’t go. I didn’t go to the celebration party. I just chilled with my family and friends after the game. And we were up until like 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock. We were just talking, just reminiscing, just eating. Just kickin’ it.

Simmons: But then you said you didn’t sleep.

Durant: Yeah, because we were up so late. And I didn’t get out of the arena until midnight, so I was like, I was already, I’m still in game mode right now. … It’s kind of like, I don’t even believe we won a championship.

Simmons: It’s weird that you’ve played the best you’ve ever played and now you can’t play anymore. You should just go to the YMCA and just torch some random dudes. Go to the Oakland YMCA.

Durant: Yeah, because I’m in a good groove right now. My shot feels good. As long as my shot feels good, I got a nice touch, and I’m hitting the bottom of the net, I’m like, "Why are we stopping? Let’s just hoop."

Why "Ring Chasers" Aren’t Chasing Rings

Simmons: Once a team’s winning, you end getting two or three of these David West guys every year. And it’s not championship chasing — I mean, there’s a little bit of it. But the guys near the end of their career wanna be on a good team.

Durant: You’re not guaranteed to win a championship. A lot of guys just wanna put themselves in a position to be in a good environment and to only think about winning a championship. It’s not about winning it, because you never know [if you will]. But all you think about is winning a championship. That’s a good feeling, and D-West wanted to experience it. He did it with San Antonio. Only thing they thought about was playing perfect and being a champion. Who wants to worry about if this guy is not getting his shots or if this guy’s happy or he might wanna be traded or they’re clashing? Who wants to deal with that as a basketball player?

It’s not fun. And that type of stuff seeps in when you’re in the NBA. The business seeps into the court sometimes. You’re not happy that way. Just thinking about a championship is what those guys are trying to do, like D-West or Zaza. They just wanna be in that environment.

Simmons: JaVale [McGee] seems like he was like that too. He seemed like he was a great teammate.

Durant: Yes! He was an unbelievable teammate. He brought everybody together. He was the reason why we were so tight.

Simmons: Really? JaVale?

Durant: Yeah, his spirit is just [an] open spirit. He’s just always in a good mood. Just his own person. And everybody just sort of gravitates to it. He was friends with everybody in a different way.

Simmons: Every team needs at least one guy like that.

Durant: Yeah, and he was that guy. A lot of people don’t know that. He adds value to your locker room. That’s what’s underrated when you’re playing on a team that’s thinking about a championship versus a team that has so many other distractions. Because now, who he is on a bad team is a distraction. Now, with us, it’s an asset because you know he’s bringing us all together.

This Year’s Warriors Took Some Time to Jell

Durant: We struggled as far as trying to make it look so good and make it work so smooth. It took us some time. Defense wasn’t good to start the season; offense was still working.

Simmons: You had to break some habits I didn’t realize.

Durant: Man, we had to build some habits. It wasn’t like coach just like rolled the balls out and [was] like, "All right, just go score. Y’all got the best talent in the league, just go score." We didn’t do that. We worked well together. That’s why JaVale McGee was able to play so well, because we utilized his strengths instead of putting him in bad positions. That’s [true for] the whole team. Coach uses your strengths and how you can help the team rather than just putting you out there.

Simmons: I was suspicious. History said that it was gonna be really hard to win the title with adding somebody who’s as good as you are to an established team. The history of it was that usually the first year, the team doesn’t win. The 2011 Heat being a great example. Takes a year, everybody gets a little comfortable with each other. And as you know like in these big games, if the chemistry and the cohesion isn’t there, it can just fall apart. It seemed like [by] April, it was just humming. … I was like, "It’s conceivable that you could go 16–0." I mean, that would have been an all-timer achievement.

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Durant: Man, that would’ve been amazing.

Simmons: The deck’s stacked against it. It just shouldn’t happen. There should be one game where shots don’t go in. Or like, what ended up happening. The other team ended up hitting 24 3s and you didn’t get a call for two quarters.

Durant: When you’re 15–0 — and we were playing well at that point — you felt like you could relax just a little bit. And that’s what we did. I’m sure ’96 Bulls at 15–0, they would’ve tried to win that game and they probably would’ve relaxed just a little bit after being up. … It’s just natural to just be like, "All right, we up 3–0 now, we could just play chess with them a little bit." And sometimes they just hit you in the mouth.

Durant’s Best On-court Trick

Simmons: Your best trick is when, like, somebody like [Richard] Jefferson is just trying to basically manhandle you as you’re gonna get open — you just put your hands up. And they can’t do it because it’s so clear that they’re fouling you if your hands are [up].

Durant: [With] Jefferson, I couldn’t even run to my spot. He would just—

Simmons: Oh, he was mauling you.

Durant: I was like, "Yo, I’m just trying to run to my spot. I’m not even in the play."

Simmons: It seemed like [the refs] decided before the series that he was gonna be allowed to do that. Because it seemed like it was 40 fouls.

Durant: He was physical — I can’t say he was fouling because I’ve been played like that before. But when I caught the ball, he was so physical that I had him on his heels and I would just catch it and go in to the rim. So I knew that all his weight was forward, so when I caught the ball he was face-guarding me. … I was just catching and going. So I just tried to use that against him.

How Steve Kerr’s Comeback Affected the Team

Simmons: I remember one thing I didn’t ask you about is Steve Kerr. Just about his health issues and the whole thing. Did you think he was even coming back?

Durant: I mean, once we got to the Finals, I had hope before then, and once we started the Finals and he wasn’t out there for Game 1 I was a little concerned. [His comeback in Game 2] was out of nowhere. So it was good to see him healthy, good to see him finish this off with us. Good that he’s healthy, man, because he was struggling. He was really struggling.

Simmons: Could you see it during the season?

Durant: Yeah. I would catch him always grabbing his neck and shaking his head and shaking his body out and trying to get loose and trying to get comfortable. You could tell that something was off.

Andre Iguodala’s Game-5 Dunk

Simmons: What did you think of Iguodala’s dunk in Game 5?

Durant: I’d seen how much work Dre put in. He changed his diet throughout the year, he cut out a lot of bad foods and was doing yoga once a week. He was drinking a lot of water. He was just doing everything perfect.

Simmons: That’s what happens when you get old. You start doing that stuff. I went through that phase. You start drinking those juices, like beet juice.

Durant: Yeah, man, he was doing all the weird stuff that you do.

Simmons: You’ll be doing that like five years from now.

Durant: I’m starting to now!

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Simmons: You’ll be having, like, kale salad.

Durant: So I had seen all that with Dre and what he did in the Finals. I was like, I know why. It’s not like he just hopped out of bed. He put the work in throughout the whole year to put himself in that position.

Durant Had to Cut Out Alcohol When He Was Injured

Simmons: What was the thing about how you stopped drinking for a few months? When you got hurt?

Durant: When I got injured, I wasn’t able to move around or break a sweat, so I didn’t want to pack on pounds while I’m just drinking alcohol, having a beer or two every day while I’m just laying up on my couch waiting for my knee to heal. I didn’t want to add the extra weight. And once I came back, I didn’t want to be overweight and start overcompensating.

Simmons: So did you feel better?

Durant: Yeah, I felt way better.

Simmons: Is it something you’re gonna do every playoffs now?

Durant: Yeah, probably. It worked for me.

Simmons: You know that’s why Larry Bird won three straight MVPs.

Durant: He just stopped drinking?

Simmons: No, they traded Rick Robey, that was the guy he used to drink beer with all the time. And he stopped going out with Rick Robey [and] won three MVPs.

Durant: That takes a toll on your body. Just having a few beers a day.

Simmons: Yeah, especially when you get older.

Durant: You can eat whatever you want and still be good, because you play so much and travel so much, but after a while it catches up.

Why He Didn’t Ruin the NBA

Simmons: Here’s the thing: There’s been a lot of teams that the season ended and everybody said, "Oh my god, this is a dynasty." This happens all the time. It’s really hard to win a championship. You need a lot of things to go right. I mean, think about when Zaza crashed into your leg. If he crashes into it 1 inch higher, you’re not in the Finals.

Durant: Oh my gosh. Imagine that.

Simmons: You need luck every year with the Finals.

Durant: Yeah, we put in work, man. Stop telling us that it wasn’t earned or that we didn’t work for it. We were the most disciplined team all year. We preached teamwork and togetherness all season. And it’s hard to do that with a bunch of egos in the league.

Simmons: And you peaked at the perfect time.

Durant: When I got hurt, we struggled first, and then, as a smart team does, that plays together and that’s unpredictable out there, they figured it out. And when I was hurt they took it to another level, and then when I came back, we just kept going from there. But we were disciplined, we preached, we had a message every day. It was always just about us. So we worked on us every day.

The NBA Has Always Had — and Always Will Have — Superteams

Durant: Pat McCaw hadn’t played for two weeks [and came] in to hit some big shots at the end of the third in the Finals. So it was like, everybody waited their turn and Coach believed in everybody, man, and we just kept grinding every day.

Simmons: I was expecting to see [McCaw] in Game 5 because he didn’t look scared in the at-Cleveland games. He had a couple checkpoints in those Cleveland games. I was like, "I bet Kerr plays him." Because you always want to play young guys at home with the crowd. And he’s gonna play for you next year. [He’ll have] 25 minutes a game next year, I think.

Durant: Oh yeah.

Simmons: Is he guarding you in practice?

Durant: Yeah. He’s good, man. He’s gonna play a lot for us next year.

Simmons: You know how they got him?

Durant: They bought him from Milwaukee I think.

Simmons: Yeah, they bought the pick. They cut a check for the pick. People are bitching about this Warriors team because I think it’s the whole "everybody gets a trophy" culture where it’s like, you can’t stack the deck, all that stuff. Look, I’m not for stacking the deck but it’s been happening—

Durant: For years!

Simmons: The Sixers traded for Moses Malone in ’82; they had been in two, three finals and they traded for the MVP. This is the league.

Durant: It’s cool when whoever’s paying all the bills is doing it, but if we do it as the players, it’s cheating the game. I’m like, they’ve been doing this for years, stacking the deck. Having the best players play with each other.

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Simmons: They drafted Klay. They drafted Curry. Minnesota passed Steph twice.

Durant: Draymond was the 35th pick.

Simmons: They created the cap space to get Iguodala. They created the cap space to get you. They went and bought the McCaw pick.

Durant: But it’s our coaching. It’s not just the players.

Simmons: Yeah. But they went and got Livingston, who had had a good season the year before. They picked smart guys.

Durant: When they signed Livingston, they weren’t like, "Oh, Shaun Livingston is the reason we’re gonna win the championship now." That wasn’t a thought when they signed Shaun Livingston. They were like, "Oh, this is a good piece, a solid piece." Nobody was calling that the game-changing piece. But now it’s a superteam now. … Klay Thompson, just being a shooter, was the 11th pick. A lot of people could’ve had him. They didn’t. Draymond Green was the 35th pick. He didn’t play as much his first few years; now everybody wants players like Draymond Green. These dudes weren’t coming out of high school as the best players in their class. They had great college careers but they weren’t highly touted. They started winning because they had a great coach and they’re playing together and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. You wanna discredit what they do by saying it’s supposed to be easy? No. They put in the work, everybody put in the work. And they want to play the right way.