- Sam Amick @sam_amick USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant didn’t go anywhere.

The basketball brand you knew, the guy who built everything from the ground up for the Thunder in an Oklahoma City community that he once called “the perfect place for me,” is now part of a Golden State Warriors team that is more dangerous than any other NBA team. The image is gone, that unique niche he had as one of the NBA’s few legacy players who could end his career with the same franchise with which he began it.

But this is the same player, the same person — on a different team.

So how did this happen? Why did Durant — the 27year-old whose decision made Monday is on par with LeBron James’ 2010 exodus to the Miami Heat in terms of free agency shockers — head to the Bay Area to join forces with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green & Co?

Here are the events that led to Durant’s decision to sign with the Warriors.

The Jerry West phone call really made a difference.

The Logo, as the NBA legend/Warriors executive board member/part owner is informally known, had a conversati­on that lasted about 30 minutes with Durant on Saturday. The Warriors had asked Durant if he wanted to talk to West, and he obliged. West never told Durant he should sign with the Warriors. Instead, in what was clearly a theme of Durant’s decisionma­king process, they discussed what was best for his growth and happiness.

West was supposed to talk to Durant on Friday from his Los Angeles area home, after the Warriors’ in-person meeting with the former Thunder star in the Hamptons. But they connected a day later, and it’s clear West’s message resonated.

West and Durant have become friendly over the years, but it’s not as if they have a close relationsh­ip. It was just two greats from different generation­s talking hoops, and it worked.

The Warriors’ meeting Friday with Durant lasted for a little more than two hours, and it went something like this:

First hour: Management and coaching staff took center stage, with Durant listening for most of the time while general manager Bob Myers, coach Steve Kerr and owner Joe Lacob painted a picture of what Durant could expect and how they’d try to take over the NBA.

The Warriors were struck by one thing early: Durant was concerned with the public relations hit he likely would take by leaving the Thunder to join the team that had beaten his team in the Western Conference finals. He didn’t want to be seen as a villain and wanted to know how they saw that part of this picture.

Their sense, from there until the end, was that he wanted to join the Warriors

but might not have the stomach to actually go through with it.

But the second hour of the meeting was key, as Curry, Thompson, Green and Andre Iguodala had a players-only meeting that also appears to have played a pivotal part.

uDurant said all along this would be a basketball decision, meaning the financial factor didn’t loom quite as large as the Thunder hoped. And while he loses money by picking his path, it’s not quite as much as it might seem. It helps, too, that he signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with Nike in September 2014.

Had Durant stayed in Oklahoma City on a one-year deal, then signed a five-year deal next summer in order to take advantage of the salary cap that is expected to jump from $94 million next season to $107 million in 2017-18, he would have made a combined $229 million in those six seasons (“home” teams can give 7.5% raises, as opposed to 4.5% for everyone else, and five-year deals as opposed to four).

Yet while Durant’s combined total salary will be about $177 million if he signs a fouryear deal with the Warriors next summer, the actual difference in earnings by the time the summer of 2021 rolls around will be about $7 million.

Health permitting, he’ll still be one of the league’s highest-paid players at 32, when he’ll likely be looking to recoup that one guaranteed year that got away.

uThere’s another familiar face waiting for Durant in the Bay Area: Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams, the defensive guru who was with him in Oklahoma City from 2008 to 2010.

The two have a fantastic relationsh­ip, one that continued from a distance after Adams left for the Chicago Bulls six summers ago. Before games between the Warriors and Thunder the last two seasons, Adams and Durant would visit. Whether it was just a half-hug or a brief visit, it was quite evident there was a mutual respect there that should help them going forward.

After Game 7 of the Western Conference finals at Oracle Arena, Adams stopped Durant on his way back to the visitors locker room to make sure Durant knew how proud he was of the player he had become. Durant is a born scorer, but his defensive improvemen­ts have come progressiv­ely over the years. And that, more than anything else, was something Adams wanted Durant to know he had noticed.

uThunder fans have every right to be disappoint­ed, angry even, but it’s called unrestrict­ed free agency for a reason.

What’s more, Durant was classy until the end. He called Thunder general manager Sam Presti minutes before announcing his decision on The Players’

Tribune website, and the two had what was described as a brief, emotional chat.

Presti’s first, best move was drafting Durant No. 2 overall out of Texas in 2007, when he was three weeks into his job as Seattle SuperSonic­s GM.

And now, with Durant gone and Russell Westbrook’s uncertain future looming, he is faced with the kind of rebuilding task he hoped to avoid. Remarkably, the Thunder have a very good team even without a player of Durant’s stature.

The Thunder felt good about their chances of retaining Durant until the end. Westbrook and Durant had kept up frequent communicat­ion and went to recent dinners with longtime teammate Nick Collison.


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