OAKLAND, Calif. - Kevin Durant told ESPN that the biggest shot of his career, for a long time, was a shot he struggled to master.
When the Golden State Warriors receive their championship rings this evening on opening night before taking on the Houston Rockets, they will do so in great part thanks to Durant's pivotal 3-pointer over LeBron James in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals.
"That shot was always one of the toughest shots for me, especially from that angle," he told ESPN. "I struggled with it. Your feet have to be placed a certain way, you have to be locked in. I would spend countless hours in the gym working on that shot to precision. When you truly love something, you want to be better at it. That's a shot I'm comfortable with now."
The Warriors were up 2-0 in the series and facing a two-point deficit with under a minute to go on the road. A loss would have opened up the series. Durant pulled down a defensive board and dribbled up the length of the floor. James was waiting for him near the top of the key.
Durant proceeded at full speed and stopped on a dime, pulling up behind the arc in the area between the top of the key and the left wing. James contested, but Durant had a clean look and swished it. Golden State took the lead for good and lost Game 4 before finishing off the series in Game 5.
It was a Durant-James showdown that didn't disappoint, arguably two of the best in the game. Durant's dominance earned him the Finals MVP award, and the shot itself has become an iconic image. When asked whether it held greater value being that it was hoisted and nailed over James, Durant disputed that notion.
"Nah. Even if I hit that shot over Gladys Knight, I'd still be excited about it because of the significance, the moment, what was at stake," Durant said to ESPN. "It was Game 3 of the NBA Finals. That's big enough."
Tuesday will be Durant's first ring ceremony, and he has an idea of how he might react.
"I'm a very emotional person and I do cry a lot, but I don't know if I'll cry in this situation," he said to reporters at shootaround. "Basketball accomplishments to me now are just what they are. I can kind of separate the two now, I feel. It's more so just cool as hell more than anything."
The 7-foot small forward says "there's tremendous excitement" about tonight, but also said the team has to be ready for what's happening after the ceremony.
"It should be an amazing night. What we accomplished was an amazing journey. There will be a little time to reflect, but we also know Houston doesn't care about any of this, so we have to make sure we're focused on our opponent," he told ESPN.
The NBA Finals are over. Tuesday night presents the final element of closing the 2017 championship chapter.
"I watched every game [of The NBA Finals]," Durant told ESPN. "I've had time to reflect. That's important to do. It's hard when you're in it, but fun to visually see how the process unfolded. Now, it's time to do it again."