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Kevin Durant gets real on Achilles injury

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In the Boardroom Cover Story released today with Kevin Durant and Rich Kleinman, Durant opened up on a lot of topics, including his Achilles tear suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

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Durant played through a calf strain that night, which eventually led to the tear. The Warriors would go on to lose the series in six games to the Toronto Raptors.

Durant was injured on June 10, 2019 and not return until Dec. 22, 2020, when he was a member of the Brooklyn Nets.

“It’s a huge moment in my life, man it’s a life-changing moment,” Durant said. “As I was walking back, I knew for a fact that it was done. Because when I was walking, I didn’t feel like I had a normal foot. Like it felt like my foot was hanging, but I was just walking on my heel. And I couldn’t feel anything else but my heel. So I’m like, ‘This is no way. I can even walk straight or try to walk straight right now. So I know. It’s just not like no strain or nothing.’

“It’s 20,000 people in there, it’s the Finals, and I heard a pop, so I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ My whole basketball career just flashed before my eyes. Everything. Everything I did, everything that I thought about, all my favorite moments, all my bad moments, it flashed. And that’s why if you watch, I’m just sitting there gazing into the crowd before somebody came over there to help me up, because I’m just like, ‘This s— is over with. I truly don’t know what I’m about to be.'”

Durant had played three seasons with the Warriors up until this point, and this was the last time he was in a Golden State’ jersey.

“That’s a nerve-wracking feeling when you don’t know who you are,” Durant said. “As I was walking back, I seen everybody and Kyle Lowry, he was trying to settle the crowd down. I seen Drake over there upset. Drake, I love that dude so much, bro. Like you (Kleinman) knew and he knew (that I was going to play through the calf strain) because I tell him everything, and I seen how mad he was about it.”

So when did Durant officially realize the severity of the injury?

“Then, as I went back to the locker room, they give you this test where I guess they squeeze on your calf to see if your foot will move,” Durant said. “And my foot wouldn’t move, and every doctor knows (what that means). And I remember the doctor did that, and he was just looking around and just didn’t say nothing, no one wanted to say s—. He just couldn’t say nothing.”

Durant continued that he never went back to the Bay Area. He ended up signing with Brooklyn 20 days later (June 30, 2019).

“I was just like, ‘This is it,'” Durant said. “That’s when I knew I was like, ‘I probably won’t go back to the Bay again.’ It was just like, just this the end of this whole thing. I had left to come on that road trip, and I didn’t even go back to the bay after that to get my clothes or nothing, y’all did that for me. Went straight to New York, got surgery and was in New York since then.”

Because of the success Durant has had since then, people often times forget Durant, now 35 years old, has gone through such a major injury because he bounced back from it right back to being one of the best players in the NBA.

“It was such a defining moment in my career, bro,” Durant said. “People don’t realize the thoughts that I had as I was going through all that s— because it affects your human life at that point. You can’t walk, you can’t function like a regular human. You got to learn how to walk again. On top of you trying to learn how to be an athlete again.

“It was tough just because I didn’t know what the recovery is like, you just hear about it. It’s different when you go through it. All I knew was just like this is the toughest injury ever. It’s gonna be hard to come back from. It’s a year process. Every day is tedious, that’s all I kept hearing. I knew I can grind out a rehab, but I’m just like, ‘Will that even help?’ You know what I’m saying. I know I can get back, but will I really be the one that I was before? That was stressing me out because I couldn’t know until I started.”

When did Durant realize he could get back to the player he was?

“My mind started to get at ease when I started playing pickup,” Durant said. “When I started going against other players that were in the NBA, and I’m like, ‘I can still drive past him. I can still shoot over this guy.’ There’s certain that I was missing out my game I had to build back up again, like my range from deep, stopping on a dime pulling up from deep, my fadeaways going right off my leg, pushing off this right leg. I felt like I had to build that stuff up, and it was stressful. But I was like, ‘I still feel solid around the younger players in the league.’ So, that’s when I started testing myself out. That’s when I got better. And that’s when my mind became more at ease.

“Now I’ve started to realize like, ‘Oh, I can do this again, and then it happened over time. Like my first preseason game, I was like, ‘Okay.’ My first six, seven games in the league, I was playing alright, I was like, ‘Alright.’ Then, my first playoff series. This is the highest intensity of basketball playing against the Milwaukee Bucks, a champion. I’m like, ‘Alright, this the highest level of ball and I can play 48 minutes straight. I am back.’ That’s when I finally realized like, ‘I’m alright.'”

You could even say Durant has gotten better, individually, since the injury.

In 185 regular season games since suffering the injury, Durant has averaged 28.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists with the Nets and now the Suns. Before that, Durant averaged 27.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 849 regular season games.

Durant is now the 10th all-time leading scorer in NBA history and sixth all-time in points per game at 27.32. He only needs 45 more points to pass Carmelo Anthony for ninth on the all-time points list.

This season, Durant has posted averages of 28.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 48 games for the Suns, as he looks to help bring Phoenix its first NBA championship.

Many players don’t come back the same from severe injuries at an older age like Durant, but he is proving time and time again, he is still at the top.

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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