It was no surprise when Kevin Durant, burned out from years of competing with Steph Curry for Warriors fans’ affection (and never quite succeeding in that regard), opted for a change of scenery in 2019. Given the rise of super-team roster constructions, Durant’s decision to align with fellow malcontent Kyrie Irving, eager to leave the Celtics after clashing with teammates and the Boston media, was also fairly predictable.
But what we hadn’t braced for was the possibility of Durant and Irving choosing Brooklyn over the Knicks, a prestige franchise in the country’s biggest media market. It wasn’t for lack of effort, either, as the Knicks, desperate to land a megastar after years—no, decades—of circling the drain, put on the full-court press, spending day and night wooing Durant during his 2019 free agency. But the former MVP already had his mind made up. It was Brooklyn or bust, and nobody, not even his own father, was going to tell him otherwise.
In an excerpt from his new book Can’t Knock the Hustle (shared Thursday by Fox Sports), author Matt Sullivan detailed the Knicks’ aggressive recruitment of Durant, which included pitching his father, Wayne Pratt, in a videoconference with team executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry. Not only did the Knicks commit blatant tampering, but their unauthorized meeting with Pratt (which was held prior to the start of free agency) also caused significant tension between parent and son with Durant incensed at his dad for going behind his back.
“Why can’t I do something different?” Durant asked his old man via text.
“The Knicks [are] Mecca,” Pratt responded. “If you want to do it, do it big! If you want to be a New Yorker, be a Knick!”
Durant agreed that New York was where he wanted to be, for both basketball and lifestyle purposes, but the All-Star forward felt Brooklyn was “more his vibe.”
Durant and Irving had been plotting to play together for quite some time—the seeds were reportedly planted as early as that January, when KD visited Kyrie’s home in Boston before a game against the Celtics. Pratt, a lifelong Knicks fan, continued to press his son, questioning whether he truly preferred Brooklyn or just wanted to play with Kyrie.
“Are you doing this just for Kyrie, because he’s your buddy?” Pratt asked in a subsequent text. Durant maintained that joining the Nets was a decision he arrived at on his own, in no way shaped by Irving.
Losing out on both Durant and Irving (who grew up a Nets fan in West Orange, New Jersey) was obviously an enormous letdown for New York that offseason, though after reaching the playoffs as a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference this year, the Knicks’ future, even with Kyrie and KD playing on the other side of town, is undeniably bright.