In the earliest hours of Thursday morning, 32-year-old Clifford Dixon was shot multiple times by a lone gunman outside an Atlanta nightclub at which he had been hosting his birthday party. Dixon was a close friend to Warriors players Kevin Durant and Quinn Cook; Durant has called Dixon his “adopted brother.”
The news hit the two players hard as they took the court on Thursday night for a key matchup against the Indiana Pacers in Oakland; Durant was visibly subdued throughout, while East Bay Times photographer Jose Carlos Fajardo captured a tearful Cook during the pre-game:
Durant, who dedicated the rest of what might be his last Warriors season to Dixon, set the tone early with his defense, though both he and Cook posted unremarkable offensive stats during Golden State’s 112-89 victory: Durant was one of six Warriors in double figures, with 15 points, to go along with six assists and three blocks; Cook made one of six shots from the field in 19 minutes.
That’s irrelevant, of course. That they were able to play at all after losing a close friend is a testament to their mental strength. The news of Dixon’s passing hits especially hard, as he was one of the people Durant thanked after winning the NBA MVP award in 2014; Durant’s mother took Dixon in when he was 16 years old, according to the Oklahoman.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr spoke to reporters before the game about what Durant and Cook are going through, and described a “very somber mood in shootaround” on Thursday. He also noted that the possibility of either player sitting out was not discussed. “For most of us who play this game or coach this game, this is kind of our refuge,” Kerr said. “Being able to play, being able to immerse yourself in a game is kind of the best way to deal with something tragic, something difficult.”
Durant’s mother, Wanda Pratt, also sent out condolences to Dixon’s family in the wake up of the shooting: