After inching closer to a championship, many pundits and fans alike had high expectations for the Thunder in the 2011-12 season. Even with Kevin Durant’s production staying the same, his key teammates in Russell Westbrook and James Harden continued to increase their points per game in the prior two years. In contrast, KD’s sneaker line showed incremental improvements but did not draw the buzz of Nike’s other signature athlete lines from Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. The Nike KD 4 changed that, with buzz coming from eye-catching colorways like the “Weatherman”, “All-Star” (seen above), “Aunt Pearl”, as well as the highly coveted “Nerf” collaboration.
The price tag increased ever-so-slightly at $95, but the affordability still played a big part in the success of the model. The KD 4 continued to feature the lockdown strap last seen on the KD 2, and also carried over the low-top collar height and the Zoom Air unit in the forefoot. The KD 4 forwent the synthetic leather in past models for the more-durable Hyperfuse upper that also allowed the color designers to add new patterns and prints to the shoe like meteorological patterns and realistic pearls from two of the aforementioned colorways.
After debuting the shoe in December, KD would go on a tear with highlights galore against divisional rivals, and teams that previously beat the Thunder in the playoffs.
With something to prove, KD also went toe-to-toe with LeBron James, tying the King’s game-high 36 points while also winning the All-Star MVP award.
KD would noticeably show up big against previous playoff foes, with the Dallas Mavericks getting the brunt of Durant’s stellar plays. One of Durant’s best buzzer beaters was against the team that eliminated OKC last year, with a catch-and-shoot three sinking Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavs.
Dallas got a double-dose of clutchness in the first game of the first round playoff series with Oklahoma City. This time around Durant chose to drive in, dropping a one-handed jumper to win the game.
KD and the Thunder would go on to sweep the Mavericks out of the first round to face another playoff foe in the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite losing the 2010 playoff series with the Lakers, those games put OKC on the map and 2012. With a more experienced (and youthful) team, Durant would dispatch the aging Lakers 4-1 to advance once again to the Western Conference Finals. The ageless San Antonio Spurs showed their championship experience winning the first two games of the series. Tim Duncan had slain many teams younger than his and the Spurs were favored in this series due to having the best record in the league. Durant would be unfazed, however, as he torched San Antonio with 30+ point games to win the next four to face LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Two of the best forwards in the league, both Nike signature athletes, were ready to truly start a rivalry that would continue past the 2012 NBA Finals. During the NBA Finals, however, KD showed his scoring prowess while stealing game 1 in Oklahoma City. KD would end up outscore LeBron 36 to 30 this game.
Durant would end up being the top scorer for 4 out of the 5 games in this series. The King had the last laugh though as his team swept through the remaining games to capture LeBron’s first NBA title. The passion for the game showed through after the final game 5 last, as KD was brought to tears after the loss.