The NBA's Newest (Spiritual) Super Squad

As the basketball world reacted to Kevin Durant's announcement to join the Golden State Warriors, I could not help but think about what led him to make his decision.

Lost in mainstream media's commentary and analysis, I could not help but think about The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears' report on Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala and Durant making chapel visits together, as part of Team USA, during the FIBA World Championship in 2010.

Knowing Warriors' forward Draymond Green identifies as a Christian and Steve Kerr is a "very open-minded" head coach, I could only wonder if Durant was guided by his spirituality in deciding to create what is now the NBA's (Spiritual) Super Squad.

The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player -- as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors. - Kevin Durant, Deputy Publisher

Listening to commentary while reading articles and viewing social media posts, two comments stood out, encouraging me to wonder further about how Durant made his decision.

"Relationships are important people!" Dwyane Wade tweeted shortly after Durant published My Next Chapter, an entry he penned in The Players Tribune.

Durant wisely used The Players Tribune platform to connect directly with his fans, in his own words.

"Y'all heard the news: Kevin Durant has decided to leave OKC for GSW. Let me be clear: this is the weakest move I've seen from a superstar!" an animated Stephen A. Smith posted on Facebook. "Don't give a damn what anyone says: weak move by KD," Smith tweeted separately.

What Smith views as a weakness, may in fact be a strength for Durant.

2 Corinthians: Chapter 12, Verses 9-10 states: But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I thought of this passage as I watched Smith state his claim on ESPN programming and his Facebook page during a live chat. Understanding Durant's commitment to his faith, his relationship with his spirituality, and his relationships with those on the Warriors team, I wondered if 2 Corinthians, 12:9-10 crossed his mind - in some shape or form - if he heard Smith's assertions.

I wondered if Durant was aware of former Warriors head coach Marc Jackson's strong Christian beliefs and practices which are well-chronicled. Once known for having the most devout locker room in the NBA, in which Jackson saw great value in sharing his spirituality with his players, the Warriors have continued to operate a professional sports team that respects player's spiritual practices.

"If guys are going to chapel before a game, I'm fine with that, as long as they're comfortable and happy doing it," Kerr stated during his introductory news conference with the Warriors in 2014. Was Durant aware of this?

Nearly every NBA arena has dedicated a room for pregame chapel in which interested players can take part. Durant comes from a Thunder team that had a pregame invocation at center court of Chesapeake Energy Arena, in which a non-denominational prayer was observed.

According to a 2014 New York Times article, those delivering the pregame prayer have ranged from Protestants to Roman Catholics to rabbis to Native American spiritual leaders. The report indicated that the Thunder and the NFL's Carolina Panthers were the only ones among the 141 North American men's professional teams (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS) to do so.

Wanting to join a phenomenal team with teammates grounded in their faith had to be a consideration of Durant's. I wonder.

Warriors forward Draymond Green once told the USA TODAY, "One thing about it is that we never shy away from making it known, because without (God) we are not who we are and we are not the team that we are and we all know that. We like to give him credit for what he's doing for this team."

From having the opportunity to be the teammate of someone with conviction like Green, to becoming a member of the Warriors' new "Core Four," I could only wonder if Durant's current relationship with Curry factored into his decision. I wonder if he believes his potential for professional and personal growth is greater because of the spiritual connectedness of those he will soon go to war with on the basketball court.

"I'm not a guy who's going to be trying to bash people over the head with the Bible," Curry told Joshua Cooley for the May/June 2016 edition of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes' Magazine.

"I want people to know when they see me play that something is different, that I play for something different, and whether I'm talking about it [or not], I just hope by the way I carry myself and by the way I play the game, they can see there's something different about that guy. And they find out what it is and then they know. It's part of who I am."

Curry's sentiments seem to be those that would entice someone as spiritually grounded as Durant.

"We got a team full of believers. We all go to chapel before every game. We all believe and we all say God has a way for you--a purpose for you.," Iguodala told the Christian Messenger last year.

"When people see us on the court, we want them to see God's work. We want to be a good representation of what we believe in."

Building relationships with teammates and an organization that share this type of philosophy, and knowing that For when I am weak, then I am strong, I believe Durant has inspired a case study on the intersection of sport, spirituality and decision-making in professional sports.

I could not help but think and wonder if Durant will provide the public with a testimony as to why he made the decision he did. I am confident his faith and relationships provided him strength, to choose the Warriors, in what could otherwise be perceived as being a weak move.

Having dialogue around spirituality's influence on sport, relationships and society is a winner here. Let's continue to think, wonder and ponder.

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