As the biggest superstar acquisition in Arizona sports history, Kevin Durant had an introductory press conference on Thursday befitting his stature as one of the NBA’s all-time greats.

Alongside owner Mat Ishbia and general manager James Jones, Durant sat on the court at the Footprint Center in front of a massive banner with his face plastered next to Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton. A crowd of 3,000 fans — max capacity for the event — sat in the stands.

Before his arrival, the Suns mascot and cheerleaders tossed out free T-shirts and hyped up the crowd. A highlight package blared on the jumbotron before Durant walked onto the court, greeted by loud cheers and chants of “KD” before he could even speak.

It was the type of fanfare not typically afforded to a team like the Phoenix Suns…and something Durant himself felt he hadn’t earned yet.

“While I appreciate it, I truly don’t think I deserve all this because I know I’ve done a lot of good things in basketball, but I haven’t done ‘em yet in a Suns jersey,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing it. I wanna go out there and do the most as I can and be the best that I can every day for you guys. So I appreciate the warm welcome, but I got more work to do.”

Obviously Durant’s humility cannot overshadow his two NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP, 13 All-Star selections or 10 All-NBA selections. The man is averaging a 30-7-5 stat line this season, and Jones didn’t mince words about what this acquisition meant to the Suns.

“This is a great day for our franchise,” Jones said. “I took this job a few years ago determined to try to build a team built for championships, and I think we’ve reached a point where we’ve been able to add arguably one of the greatest players to ever play this sport.”

But throughout the 24-minute press conference, Durant emphasized his commitment to the game itself, the daily challenge of trying to get better, and his focus on matching the effort and intensity laid out by his new teammates. He was grateful for the warm welcome, but in his book, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“I could feel the excitement as soon as I got off the plane,” he said. “Everywhere I’ve been so far, fans have been giving me a warm welcome, but I still feel like I gotta prove myself every day. They set a high standard for the players here. I could tell by how dedicated they are to the team. So it’s a high standard set every night for each player, and I want to reach that every day.”

How far the Phoenix Suns have come! Hearing one of the 15 greatest players of all time (at worst) heap praise on the culture of the organization and the work ethic of its players was almost as surreal as the blockbuster acquisition of Kevin Durant itself.

And yet, here was Durant, saying he felt the Suns had all the right pieces to be successful. Saying they had veterans who knew what it took to reach the Finals. Saying they had a “champion” coach in Monty Williams. Saying the culture had changed under Williams and Jones’ leadership.

And most of all, saying how much he looked forward to playing with Booker, a player he believes possesses a similar game and mindset.

“He’s just such a quiet, efficient scorer, and he goes about his business on and off the court in just a mature manner,” Durant said. “I wanted to be a part of his journey and see how good he can get from here. He’s just one of those players that I really admire, and people are gonna be doing classes on him once he’s done playing. You can learn so much from watching his game.”

It’s not just Booker, of course. KD said he’s always loved playing in Phoenix and appreciated the fans who “show love” to good basketball. Now, he was finally here — the destination he’d wanted a trade to over the summer and again at the trade deadline.

“I knew this would be a great place to play and a great place to continue to get better as a player,” Durant said. “You got somebody like Devin, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, guys that work, and I wanted to be a part of that. So I’m excited I’m here. I’m looking forward to trying to add as much as I can to the group already.”

Durant’s interest in Phoenix wasn’t something that suddenly built up over the last two years, of course. While the presence of Booker, the 2021 Finals run and last year’s 64-win season loomed large, KD said his appreciation for the city and its support of the Suns went all the way back to the 2013-14 season, when Phoenix won 48 games and just barely missed the playoffs. He said every game felt like a battle, mentioning the Morris twins and P.J. Tucker by name.

“I think that was one of the teams that really sold me on like, ‘All right, this is a destination to come play. This is a place that they really get behind their team,'” he said. “Just the style of play that team had, I felt like that’s always evolved, and it’s the fast pace here in Phoenix. So that drew me here. You always keep an eye out on organizations and teams throughout the league throughout your career, and this is one of the teams and one of the cities I always respected, and I’m glad this was able to come full-circle and I’m here now.”

As well-respected as the Suns and their fanbase appear to be, one lingering storm cloud still hangs over the franchise’s head: the lack of a championship. In Phoenix’s 54 years of existence, they’ve never won a title, making them the longest-tenured NBA franchise to never get over the hump.

Here in Year 55, the Suns are hoping that changes with the help of No. 35.

Durant, meanwhile, is more focused on the step-by-step process it takes to get there.

“I mean, that’s why we play the game of basketball,” he said. “We understand that. But I’m more concerned about what we do every day as a team — the stuff that you guys don’t see. I think that’s what really brings championships, and puts us in a position to win a championship is the work that we put in every day. So I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Of course, a player of Durant’s caliber should always be in a position to compete for titles. It’s a fact he’s perfectly aware of, and he even acknowledged as much during his press conference. There will always be pressure on whatever team Durant is on to win a title, and it’s amplified by the Suns’ title drought here in the Valley.

But even as a pure hooper, whose emphasis rests in gratitude for being able to wake up in the morning and play basketball for a living, Durant’s first home game at the Footprint Center and Thursday’s press conference painted a picture of how much a championships would mean here in particular. Expectations are high, and the work will soon begin.

“I know how significant a championship is to a franchise and to a city,” Durant said. “I’ve been a part of two of those, and I’m looking forward to getting back on that road to try to do it again. But I know how tough it is and how hard it is. This fanbase is looking forward to cheering for a winner, so I want to go out there and prove every night that we’ve got a chance to win, and that starts with the work we put in every day in practice.”


Gerald Bourguet serves as PHNX's reporter, writing savant and podcast co-host for all things Phoenix Suns. He's been a basketball fan since the day he could say "Michael Jordan," graduated from the Walter Cronkite School at ASU in 2013 with a BA and MA in sports journalism and has been covering the NBA ever since. As a credentialed media member since 2015, Gerald dealt with his Suns-related depression through his writing...until the Bubble Suns changed everything. Now, the Artist Formerly Known as Zewio is just as excited to cover winning basketball as Suns fans are to enjoy watching it.