Careers

Kevin Durant's nearly $10 million pay cut teaches a crucial lesson about long-term success

There really is no "I" — or "$" — in "team."

According to Business Insider, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant agreed to a two-year contract with the team that will pay him $25 million during the 2017-2018 season, $1.5 million less than he made last year and $9.5 million less than he was eligible to receive.

Durant's move, which leaves millions on the table, was a strategic effort to keep his NBA Championship team together. In agreeing to this deal, which USA Today says is between $51-$53 million, Durant provides a clear example of how short-term losses can set you up for long-term gain.

Kevin Durant and Steph Curry at media day.
Ari Levy | CNBC
Kevin Durant and Steph Curry at media day.

"I told him it reminded me a little bit of Tim Duncan and his time with the Spurs," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Bay Area News Group. "He made max money, and then at key times in his career, he took a little less so they could add a player here and there."

Kerr says Durant's generous pay cut allowed the team to keep Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, which will hopefully lead to Durant and the team winning more titles.

"The way the league works, the way the [Collective Bargaining Agreement] works, it really kind of is up to the star player at key times to take a little haircut here and there," added Kerr. "Whether that's fair or not, I don't know. But I do know that Tim knew it was dramatically helping his own career and KD understands the same thing."

Durant was already considered a star player in the league before the team won the 2017 NBA Championship, but had yet to officially join the ranks of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and other NBA greats.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated's The Crossover, four-time championship winner Shaquille O'Neal talked about Durant by saying, "You're on the outside in line with [Charles] Barkley, [Karl] Malone and [John] Stockton. You're not in the club with me and those [championship] guys."

Kevin Durant #5 of the United States celebrates winning the Men's Basketball gold medal game between the U.S. and Spain on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympics Games.
Getty Images
Kevin Durant #5 of the United States celebrates winning the Men's Basketball gold medal game between the U.S. and Spain on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympics Games.

And after signing with the Warriors for the 2016-2017 season, Durant faced a lot of backlash for his move from Oklahoma City.

"Yeah, I hear all the narratives throughout the season that I was joining, I was hopping on bandwagons, I was letting everybody else do the work," Durant told NBC Sports. "But then that was far from the truth."

Durant's move to the Warriors paid off with a championship win — the team is already an overwhelming favorite to win the 2018 NBA title — and his pay cut could bring them closer to another title. That's an investment that could prove to be worth a lot more than $10 million.

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