“Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!” – @KDTrey5 on Twitter, July 16, 2010

That was Kevin Durant six years ago. That Kevin Durant possessed a mindset that people appreciate, an old school mentality that used to accompany the great champions of sport. That was the Kevin Durant people loved.

The Kevin Durant who announced on Monday that he’ll join forces with the Golden State Warriors will not be loved – at least not there, not right away. Sports fans don’t applaud “signing up” for a championship. Titles are to be earned. Champions are supposed to endure – then overcome – heartache before they’re truly viewed as champions.

Ask LeBron James.

Today, James is viewed, almost universally, as a great champion. Despite the fact he already had two NBA titles to his name prior to winning with Cleveland two weeks ago, that’s a brand new perception. When he won in 2012 and ’13 with the Miami Heat, it wasn’t enough. In fact, some still view James’ four-year tenure with the Heat as a failure. That sounds harsh, considering that he was part of two championship teams and two that lost in the Finals, but because he joined forces with two other superstars, all of his accomplishments were accompanied by an “asterisk.”

KD, did you not learn anything from The King?

Now, James is a hero. His road had to be hard. He had to bring glory to an ailing city. And he had to do it by himself. He did that, and now and only now, does James have the respect and adoration of the masses.

Perhaps that’s unfair, but in today’s high-dollar, whirlwind free agency sports world, fans do not want to see athletes who come up just short opt for what should be an “easier path.” Should Durant win a title with the already loaded Warriors, his legacy won’t be cemented – it will questioned.

Everyone needs help. Bird had McHale and Parish and DJ. Magic had Kareem and Worthy. Jordan had Pippen.

But the major difference between Durant and every one of the aforementioned names is that none of them left to seek help. In the case of LeBron, he left Cleveland seeking help, and his titles were meaningless in the eyes of many. When he came back to Cleveland, and finally got the help of a healthy Kyrie Irving, his run to the title will be highly regarded forever. He didn’t do it alone, but his path was more widely accepted.

Durant had Michael Westbrook. They could have given it another shot. The two of them were a sole possession from playing in the NBA Finals this year. What a story it would have been if he and Westbrook gave it one more shot and got it done. Even if the organization would have brought in more help, a title next season would have placed both of them among the basketball gods. Any player who could bring a tiny, central time zone city a bona fide big-four championship would forever be a heralded conqueror, no matter what happened after that.

Even if “one more shot” came up short, Durant could have done something else after next season, something that would have been more respected. He could have put Washington on the map. He could have gone on to play “team ball” in San Antonio, proving that market size and style points don’t matter. He could have filled the gigantic shoes of Tim Duncan. He could have come to Denver and taken a young and talented team to the next level.

He could have done just about anything, but he didn’t.

What he did will not be appreciated or applauded outside of San Francisco. Should the Warriors win with Durant on the roster, he’ll be considered a paper champ.

Kevin Duran is a great player, one of the NBA’s finest. But he just did what he wisely criticized back in 2010. He’s not “going at these peoples” – he’s now one of them. Jordan would have never done it. LeBron did it once, learned, and still had the time and ability to re-write his own legacy. Can Durant travel same path?

Only time will tell, but for now, KD, enjoy the asterisk.