When the Nets landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last offseason, the latter called it one of the biggest surprises in NBA history. And with the pair debuting Durant’s new podcast, they pulled the curtain back on how that friendship formed, and talked about the idea of winning a title together in Brooklyn.
The media first got a hint of the duo teaming up when cameras caught them talking at the 2019 All-Star game. But on “The ETCs with Kevin Durant,” the host said that sighting was just a piece to the puzzle the media had failed to put together.
“After that All-Star video when they caught us in the hallway, that’s when it was solidified we were going somewhere,” Durant said. “They didn’t know for a fact where it was, but it was somewhere.”
Few figured it’d be Brooklyn. Or grasped just how far back their friendship went.
Many assumed it just blossomed in 2016 when they won Olympic gold together. But it really stretched back to Irving’s 2011-12 rookie campaign, and to a Nike marketing executive named Jeff Rogers, who was commissioner of the EYBL.
“Me and Kyrie have a mutual friend in Jeff Rogers who worked at Nike. He was our grassroots guy,” Durant said. “Over time once Ky got into the league Jeff just happened to throw us in the text one night.
“We were playing the Cavs…and me looking at it like we’re No. 1 in the West, we’re playing against a (crappy) Cavs team – this is before I’d seen the light on Kyrie Irving – and I get this text from Jeff and Ky, and Ky was straight up serious. I’m joking around thinking it’s just another game, and Ky was so locked-in, like “We’re going to see tomorrow.” It wasn’t what’s up little bro, big bro; it’s like alright, I’m going to see what’s up tomorrow.”
For the record, Irving had a dozen assists in a Cavs upset. He made an impression on Durant, who explained how they formed a mutual respect from afar. And when they started talking daily, it became a brotherhood that eventually brought them to Brooklyn.
“Once we started to kick in and talk about what we’d like to do outside of the game and who our family started to meet, and it just became easy, you know? And obviously the common ground is how we hoop and how we love the game of basketball. But it just branched off from there,” Durant said.
“And we started to (talk) every day on FaceTime. What do you think about this shot? What’d you think about this move that I did in this game? How about you, when Brad (Stevens) takes you out, it was six minutes to go on the first quarter, how you approach the game coming back? We’d have these types of conversations all day, every day. And it just grew from there. It was organic. It wasn’t something that you can pinpoint and say this was the moment. It just happened.”
It grew until they joined the Nets last summer, Irving saying “we unveiled one of the biggest surprise moves in NBA history.” And despite Durant’s Achilles and Irving’s shoulder having kept them from playing together this season, they say their synergy will have them on the same page next year.
“Doing it with a family member (will be great), not just a friend, somebody you just kick it with and you’re like let’s go hoop today and you see them only at the arena. But the synergy is connected to who we are as people first,” said Irving, who admits he’s matured, now chasing titles instead of stats.
“I know it’s meant for me to share that greatness not only with myself but others now. Before it used to be “let me get as many points let me get as many assists as I can.” Now I want to bring a championship with my family to Brooklyn, New York, New Jersey, DC. Then we have the biggest parade ever.”
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