During Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, Kevin Durant injured his right Achilles tendon, and the landscape of the entire NBA changed.
Hollywood couldn’t have drawn up a more perfect comeback story. After suffering a right calf strain in the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant was returning in the NBA Finals to rescue his team from the brink of elimination. The Toronto Raptors capitalized on their time with Durant sidelined, building the commanding type of 3-1 series lead that the Warriors know a little something about losing.
KD is irrefutably one of the two best players in the association, and he might not be No. 2. The Warriors getting back such an intrinsic offensive piece made the series feel like a series again. Through just 12 minutes in Game 5, he notched 11 points on 3-for-3 shooting from deep. Golden State’s offense looked as scary as ever.
Durant’s legacy in Golden State has been murky, at best. The decision to join the Warriors, fresh off a 73-win season (when they also lost the championship), was seen by many as a cop-out. Durant was joining a pre-built team that didn’t even need him to win. That narrative couldn’t have imploded in any better fashion than it did in these Finals, when Golden State’s offense appeared vulnerable without him, and unbeatable with him.
But before the party could really get started, it was over. Durant planted his right foot, lost his footing, and needed to be helped off the floor. Just hours later, Steve Kerr refused to answer a question regarding the nature of KD’s injury, and Golden State general manager Bob Meyers later confirmed Durant injured his Achilles in a teary-eyed press conference. The comeback story was over.
Durant’s Achilles injury impacts the Warriors in the short-term, certainly, but it also acts as a seismic shift in the NBA’s landscape leading into what will be the most intriguing summer since 2010 saw LeBron James create the Miami Heat. Now, the summer that was once certain to see Durant join the New York Knicks is filled with question marks and wild speculation. Here are the five biggest ripple effects of Kevin Durant’s injury.