How Good Is Kevin Durant?

Jake,

For the love of Michael Jeffrey Jordan—inveterate gambler, Bill-Murray-in-Lost in Translation-esque philanderer, flag-over-shoe-brand-logo patriot, redundant gay slur-uttering bully and, oh yeah, best basketball player ever—please leave Durant's supposed professionalism, humility, and all-around good guy-ness out of this. For one: None of us have any idea what any particular athlete and/or famous person is actually like in real life. Our perceptions are at best mediated and incomplete, and at worst the product of carefully crafted and painstakingly controlled marketing schemes. (See Woods, Eldrick). For two: Sports and morality go together like sports and, say, biochemical engineering. No matter how many self-important high school coaches say otherwise. Playing basketball "the right way"—let's pause for a moment while I barf at the thought of Larry Brown's passive-aggressive blame-defelecting in any press conference ever—means passing and cutting and doing cool stuff with your body in a child's game. It does not mean practicing the Golden Rule, the Categorical Imperative, or the Way of the Buddha.

Woods, Jordan, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lawrence Taylor: pretty much a bunch of jerks. Who cares? They're all peak performers, fun to watch. And in that way, they're just like Durant. I agree with your George Gervin comparison, Jake, though with Durant's height and seemingly endless arms, there's a little Dirk Nowitzki in his game, too. Which is to say: No one in the NBA is a bigger mismatch than the Thunder forward. Not even James, a point guard blessed/cursed with Karl Malone's body. (Of course, if James ever develops a reliable post game, he'll instantly become the biggest mismatch in league history not named Shaquille O'Neal). Cover Durant with a small, quick defender, and he'll shoot over the top; check him with a big man, and he'll drive to the basket. Durant can go one-on-one with the shot clock running down. He can score just as effectively as an off-ball threat, coming off screens and curls within a structured offense. In short, he's skilled, versatile, and pretty much unguardable—consistent, Scottie Pippen-like defensive intensity and physical strength are the only two things keeping him from surpassing James as the league's top player, and guess what? Durant is only 23 years old.

In other words:, his prime years are ahead of him.

Indeed, while the basketball world—plus TMZ!—fixated on James taking his talents to South Beach for not one, not two, not three, not four (cue the Boy Band smoke machines!) but umpteen future championships, the NBA's actual next dynasty seems to be sprouting in Oklahoma City, where a young core of Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and James Harden is poised to win right now. And likely for the next decade, too. If Durant was a stock, he'd be Apple, just before the introduction of the first iPhone. I'm buying. It's nice that Durant is nice, but better that he's good.

Hampton, does anything stand between Durant and extended world basketball domination? And how sad are Portland fans—who got to watch Greg Oden for something like 82 games total over the last four years—going to be when they turn on the Finals and see yet another franchise-defining superstar who got away?

–Patrick

Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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