Kevin Durant, who ranks among the top three or four best basketball players in the world, is joining the Golden State Warriors, the winningest team in NBA history. He will team up with Stephen Curry, the best or second best player in the world, not to mention two other all-stars, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

And the NBA just died.

Not financially, but as a competitive league in which every team has a chance. From now on it’s a two-team race, if it wasn’t already, between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with possibly a challenge from the San Antonio Spurs, who win the old-fashioned way: They earn it. Every other team exists to sell tickets, fill out the TV schedule for Turner and ESPN and sell athletic gear for Nike, UnderArmour and the rest of them.

Got it?

Without Durant, the Warriors won a record 73 games last season. With Durant they’ll win, what, 80?

These things don’t always work out the way they look on paper, as we learned with the LeBron James’ Miami Heat, but even the Heat managed to eke out two championships (but not seven or eight or 18 or whatever it was James promised in a giddy moment). But potentially the Warriors just became unbeatable and gave up virtually nothing to do it.

The league is controlled by a handful of players. One of them just won a championship. Another one is about to win one with his new team. You can bet the others will soon be trying to arrange their own super teams. This is the legacy of James’ flight to Miami. Durant just raised the stakes.

There is plenty of blame to go around, so let’s try not to forget anyone. Let’s start with the NBA and the lockout of 2011. It cost the league 16 games and $800 million and in the end the owners caved on the one issue that mattered most: a hard salary cap that would have spread player talent more evenly around the league and given the smaller market teams a fighting chance to compete. The hard cap works brilliantly in the NFL, where parity reigns and every team has a chance (well, except the Cleveland Browns).

Instead, the NBA settled for a 51-49 player-owner split of revenues and a luxury tax for teams that exceeded the soft cap. It seemed to be having the desired effect until revenues soared $1 billion the last three years and the NBA signed a $24 billion TV contract with ESPN and Turner. All of which jacked up the salary cap from $70 million this season to $94 million next season. And, bearing in mind that 51-49 player-owner split of basketball-related income that must be met, teams are offering boatloads of cash to players. Six of the seven biggest contracts in NBA history have been proffered in the last week, ranging from $127 million to Bradley Beal to a record $153-million to Mike Conley.

Who’s Mike Conley?

All of the above created a perfect storm of events that allowed the talent-rich Warriors to sign Durant, which brings us to the next man up in the blame game.

Durant, a nine-year veteran who hasn’t won a championship, took the easy way out. He’s doing exactly what James did when, frustrated by his failure to win a championship after seven years in the league, he dumped Cleveland to take his talents to Miami so he could hand-pick a title team. Among James’ many critics was Durant, who tweeted at the time , “Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!”

While we’re at it, blame James for Durant’s move. He started this business of superstars creating their own super teams. Now it could come back to bite him.

James launched an era in which the philosophy is, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Michael Jordan didn’t run off to join the Celtics or Lakers when the Bulls failed to win a title during his first six years in the league. He won six titles the next six years of his career, all with his original team. Larry Bird (three titles) remained with the Celtics, even though he didn’t win a title his last six years in the league. Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson won five titles apiece and played for one team in their careers. Isiah Thomas didn’t win a title his first seven years in the league and then won two of them while spending his entire 13-year career with the Pistons.

Durant lost to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals in a seven-game series. He can’t beat ‘em, so now he’s joining them. This will have huge ramifications for the league for years to come. Can’t we go back to being competitive and going at these peoples?

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com