LOS ANGELES: Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant confirmed on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) he is joining the Golden State Warriors in a stunning move that sent shockwaves rippling through the NBA.
Durant, the most coveted NBA free agent, announced his move on the Players’ Tribune website after what he described as the “most challenging few weeks in my professional life.”
The 27-year-old forward said he was joining the Warriors to enhance his growth as a player and a person.
“With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors,” Durant wrote.
Reports said Durant is expected to sign a two-year, $54.3 million (48.7 million euros) contract with a player option after the second year.
The capture of Durant, a seven-time NBA All Star and the NBA’s MVP in 2014, is a huge boost for Golden State as they build towards next season.
The Warriors are still licking their wounds after slumping to a 4-3 NBA finals defeat to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last month.
The 6ft 9in (2.06-meter) Durant took the Thunder to the brink of victory against Golden State in the Western Conference finals last season, inspiring his team to a 3-1 series lead before the Warriors fought back to win 4-3.
Durant had held talks with no fewer than six teams over the past week, including his current club Oklahoma City, the Warriors, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Clippers, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat.
However the prospect of joining up with the Warriors and their record-breaking roster proved irresistible for Durant, who has career averages of 27.4 points and seven rebounds per game.
On Friday, Durant met with NBA MVP Stephen Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson and coach Steve Kerr as the Warriors, who compiled the best regular season record in history this year at 73-9, sought to tempt him to Oakland.
News of Durant’s eagerly anticipated move sent social media into meltdown as fans and commentators digested a deal that makes Golden State an even more fearsome outfit.
“Fans of the other 29 teams that aren’t Golden State – let’s have a scared group hug,” broadcaster Bill Simmons wrote on Twitter.
Other Twitter users meanwhile retweeted a six-year-old posting by Durant in 2010 when he apparently took aim at star players joining stronger teams in the pursuit of NBA titles.
“Now everybody wanna play for the heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!,” Durant wrote shortly after LeBron James had joined Miami.
Durant meanwhile acknowledged his decision would likely dismay Thunder fans.
“It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career,” he said.
“I will miss Oklahoma City, and the role I have had in building this remarkable team. I will forever cherish the relationships within the organization—the friends and teammates that I went to war with on the court for nine years, and all the fans and people of the community.”
However Oklahoma City chief general manager Sam Presti urged Thunder fans to respect Durant’s decision, hailing the star suggesting that it was always likely he would leave eventually.
“None of us are under the illusion that Kevin Durant would be here forever,” Presti said.
“Kevin has earned the right to make a decision that’s best for him. We have to be truly grateful for what he represented for the Thunder and also for the city and the community.
“He gave back with his time. He gave back with his dollars. And we need to recognize that. We need to honor that.”