Durant could have secured a max of $34 million per year from the Warriors but signed for $25.9 million this season, less than he made in 2016-17 ($26.5 million). He explained his decision to The Athletic on Thursday, saying he wanted to ensure that Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Stephen Curry could get paid "what they deserve."
"Well, I'm a smart guy and I want to keep this thing going, and looking at Andre and Shaun and Steph, 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," he said.
"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."
Durant said the critics of his move were those who wanted to see "money break [the Warriors] up."
"They only [criticized] it because it's the Warriors and it's me and they love to hate anything we do right now. A lot of players have [taken pay cuts]. It wasn't that I wanted the praise. I've learned from Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki and how it has helped them over the years, and I thought, if they did it, why can't I? Why shouldn't I sacrifice? People wanted the money to break us up and I didn't want that to happen," he said.
While the Warriors have remained intact, other teams in the Western Conference have loaded up through trades, as the Houston Rockets acquired Chris Paul, the Oklahoma City Thunder got Paul George and the Minnesota Timberwolves netted Jimmy Butler. Durant told The Athletic that he applauded the moves.
"You're just seeing a lot of these GMs buckling down and saying, 'You know what, let's swing for the fences. Let's see what we can do. Anything can happen.' You gotta respect it. Before, you've seen GMs be conservative, try to save money or build through the draft every year. Just try to be OK. But teams aren't just settling for that. They're trying to win and trying to win now and they want to put the best players together," he said.
"It's a great league and you want to see the best players on the biggest stage. Why not see the best players? All of them on a few teams. Why not see that? That's what this league is about. It's star-driven and it's good to see that the stars dictate how the league is supposed to go. Then the next group of stars will do the same and the same after that. I think that's what we're starting."