Kevin Durant made a lot of people angry when he agreed to a two-year, $53 million extension back in June. People who dislike the Warriors (haters, if you prefer) were upset because his taking less money allowed Golden State to re-sign key role players Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. But those weren't the only people who took issue with Durant's below-market contract—there were many in NBA circles who worried about the precedent he was setting and the deal's implications for the league's competitive balance.
If players routinely take below-market contracts, critics said, perhaps that will create an atmosphere where other players feel pressured to do the same. And if star players repeatedly settle for less than a max-contract then, well, the CBA's built-in guarantor of some semblance of parody will be shattered.
The idea behind a salary cap with a hard maximum on player salaries is that star players will take that max, which in turn prevents teams from hoarding more than two or three star players. If stars take less, the argument goes, it's a slippery slope. What would stop the five best players from colluding to take $10 million per year salaries and form the best team ever assembled?
It's an interesting argument, but it's a fundamentally flawed one. Players do not exist on an island where the only goal is competitive balance; players are sentient humans who make their own choices. If Durant wants to take less money so his teammates can re-sign and keep the seemingly unbeatable band together, so be it. The decision might make you angry, but to argue that it shouldn't be allowed or that it's "dangerous" is an attempt to deny him agency over his own future. That's not right.
Anyways, Durant addressed the issue in a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic. He was asked how his decision to take the pay cut came about. Durant:
"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. And on top of that, it's my money. It's my decision. I can do what the hell I want with it."
Yeah. What he said.