Golden State's dogged pursuit of Kevin Durant in the offseason has immediately paid off. At 20-4, the Warriors have the best record in the NBA and Durant is among the field vying for MVP.
Of course it wasn't guaranteed that Durant would choose the Warriors. It was a seasonlong process that involved Draymond Green continually checking in on him. Steve Nash and Jerry West also talked to Durant about the merits of joining Golden State. Stephen Curry sent him several texts, letting him know that he didn't care who was the face of the franchise. And the fact the Warriors lost in the Finals also swayed Durant to Golden State.
But despite all of those factors and the different people chiming in, the Warriors wanted to make sure they would wow Durant in that fateful meeting in the Hamptons in early July. To ensure they would, the Warriors created a customized virtual reality experience for the All-Star forward. This was not your run-of-the-mill VR experience, though. It gave Durant an insider's look and feel to what being on the Warriors is actually like.
Via SportsTechie.com, NextVR executive chairman Brad Allen described the experience they created for Durant and the Warriors at a recent digital conference:
"He goes, 'The only thing he's going to remember is what he sees in VR,'" Allen recalled the Warriors general manager saying. "And he was talking about KD, of course. He couldn't say that at the time. So we ended up creating a Warriors experience. He goes, because you can't take a player and bring him into the locker room and everything else. He's playing for another team. So we actually put together a Warriors experience in the huddle, in the locker room, practice, all those kind of things, in the tunnel going out. And I guess it worked. I guess it helped."
While Allen is no doubt proud of the work his company did, the VR experience apparently didn't do much to convince Durant to leave the Thunder. Durant did try it out for a brief moment but as Warriors coach Steve Kerr told ESPN's Zach Lowe, he was more interested in hearing from players like Curry, Green and Klay Thompson.
"It was like one of those things if the production quality was good, it was like OK, it's a decent idea," Kerr said. "You kind of want to bring something to the table. And then he put it on, and I think it malfunctioned at first. And within a couple of minutes, Rich Kleiman, his agent, was like, 'Alright, let's move on. Kevin wants to know what it would be like if he's going to be a Warrior.' And I kind of chuckled. I'm thinking 'Well, we were kind of trying to show him.' But that didn't work. So it was all about our players."
Using VR to woo Durant is a unique idea by the Warriors and shows how much they were willing to do to sign him. But in the end, it looks like Durant made his decision based on the actuality of the Warriors, not a perceived reality.