Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors last season to win a title. Now that he's accomplished that, he's looking for more rings.
Durant was eligible to sign a contract worth up to $34 million per year, but instead took a pay cut of more than $500,000 from last season and will make $25.9 million in 2017-18.
That's still a lot of money, of course, but by forgoing the additional $8.1 million, Durant may have just changed how the NBA landscape will look over the next several years.
His decision allowed the Warriors to re-sign a ton of key pieces, like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and it gave them the financial flexibility to ink Steph Curry to a supermax deal.
Durant recently spoke to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, explaining the motive behind his decision:
"Well, I'm a smart guy and I want to keep this thing going and looking at Andre and Shaun [Livingston] and Steph [Curry] — they all should make the most money that they can make and get what they deserve. Because they were all underpaid and I knew at some point they'd want to get what they deserve. So I just took a step back and let the chips fall where they may. Then I took it in my hands. I wanted to keep the team together and I thought it was going to help the ownership bring all the guys back."
Durant also cited superstars like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, who took pay cuts to allow their teams to remain competitive. Of course, Durant's critics will be quick to point out that Duncan and Nowitzki have spent their entire careers with one team, and didn't jump ship to "chase championships."
Those critics also argue that the Warriors being heads and tails above everyone else will kill the competitive landscape of the league for the next several seasons. That's a valid point; just about everyone predicted a Warriors/Cavs matchup in the NBA Finals, and that's exactly what we got.
It could potentially damage the league to have one dominant team. Other owners look around and see their current roster isn't going to compete with the Warriors, so they don't bother with building the highest-quality roster, especially if it costs them additional money.
However, it's hard to fault Durant for wanting to win a ring. Now that he's gotten one, he's willing to sacrifice a few million dollars to keep the band together. In a league where players try to grab as much money as possible, Durant's choice is fairly uncommon – almost commendable.
Don't feel too bad for KD, though. He's already made $135 million in his career, and he's taken home plenty in endorsement deals, too. And he just might win enough championships for his entire hand when all's said and done.