Kevin Durant's arrival in Phoenix was a bittersweet moment for Suns fans, as the team also traded away its beloved "twins," Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. Phoenix should not have traded away two of its best and most beloved players in order to improve its shot at the NBA Finals.
But, the Suns made the move anyway. Away go the twins (along with multiple first-round NBA Draft picks) and in comes… Durant, the two-time NBA Finals MVP and perennial NBA All-Star.
Obviously, Durant is a great player, but it's clearly not as simple as that. The Suns left behind two of their best and most-liked players for Durant, and to some of the team's fanbase, the price was steep.
Durant was, notably, once labeled as a 'snake' because of his willingness to leave behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors… after the Warriors beat the Thunder in the playoffs the previous season.
He also has a lengthy injury history, including an Achilles tendon tear that led him to miss the 2019-2020 season and an MCL sprain in the 2021-2022 season that sat him out for six weeks. At the age of 34, those injuries add up.
"I think the Nets won more of it (the trade). The trade is an all-or-nothing trade to win the championship this year," said Aaron Zhou, a freshman studying accounting and Suns fan. "But I don't think it's worth that much for just Durant, especially when he is 34 years old."
Further than just the details of the trade and Durant's abilities, the twins meant a lot to the Phoenix sports community. The Arizona Diamondbacks went so far as to have a Mikal Bridges appreciation day, which, of course, Cam Johnson tagged along for.
It is also worth mentioning that the Suns already had an excellent shot to win a championship, especially given that they went to the finals without Durant in 2021. Yet, no matter the case, teams are willing to do anything to try to (theoretically) increase their odds at a championship. It's a sad reality.
But, maybe it shouldn't be a reality in the NBA. There's nothing wrong with a star player moving around once or twice in their career, but moving around three, four or five times in the chase for a championship isn't necessary.
If NBA players had more incentives to stay with the team they already signed on with, we would see more storybook endings, such as Lebron James' famous finals win over the Golden State Warriors for his home state's team.
It's possible that Bridges and Johnson could have eventually had a similar moment with the Suns. Durant, for as good as he is, doesn't have that same kind of commitment to the Suns, and a finals win led by Durant would not feel like a perfect fairytale story.
This rift is sad in comparison to college basketball, where former ASU guard and current Philadelphia 76ers player, James Harden visited Desert Financial Arena for an ASU men's basketball home loss to Colorado. He did this when the team was in a bit of a slump, too.
A deeper fan-attached culture of loyalty in the NBA could have stopped the Suns' trade for Durant from happening. It's a shame that the Suns decided to trade two of their best up-and-coming fan favorites for an aging and occasionally injured all-star to theoretically improve their odds of winning the finals.
Loyalty to the fans and their experience should take priority over desperately chasing a championship (especially when the team is already good). It's what makes the college basketball experience more valuable, and, ultimately, it would do the same for the NBA.
Edited by Kate Duffy, Reagan Priest and Anusha Natarajan.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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Aaron Stigile is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership.