Olympic Gold Medalist. Rookie of the Year. Seven time All-NBA. Eight time All-Star. All-star game MVP. Most Valuable Player. All of these accolades are listed on Kevin Durant’s NBA resume. The most recent, shimmering new line, however, is champion. KD averaged 28.5 points during Golden State’s one-loss playoff run to the 2016-17 World Championship. He upped his game to a ridiculous 35.2 points per game during the Finals to take home the Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy.
Even more ridiculous, Durant’s gaudy point per game average was teamed with more than eight rebounds and over five assists. All of this was accomplished more efficiently than any player in NBA Finals History to the tune of the vaunted 50-40-90 threshold. For those that don’t know, that means he averaged over 35 points per game while shooting almost 56% from the field, 47% from three, and 93% from the free throw line. Long story short, homeboy didn’t miss a whole lot.
This efficiency is where I want to start. Consider normal basketball playing humans: most 7-footers this side of Dirk Nowitzki get their points via some variety of a move-countermove after receiving a post entry pass. As a guy who started playing basketball in 1990, it was an accepted reality that the tallest dude was the center. Period. The tallest 8-year-old boy went to the other end of the court to work on post moves from some want-to-be coach that still thought Kareem’s sky hook was a viable go-to move. Normally, the tallest guy doesn’t dribble, runs the slowest, can’t shoot free throws, and most definitely can’t shoot 3’s. Actually back in the day, this person is not to shoot a three under any circumstances unless he enjoys watching the game from the bench and being labeled soft.
While we’re at it, there is still – in today’s position-less NBA – players of the taller echelon that can’t score outside of four feet. There are players who get paid money to play basketball that grab a rebound and try to get rid of the ball as if it is a ticking time bomb with less than three seconds until detonation. It is also an accepted trend to hack-a-whoever is the tallest, slowest dude on the team because said Lurch-like character is bound to nervously waltz to the free throw line, and have teammates dap him up to exhibit a false sense of confidence. Then, he will go through some shaky free throw routine without the ball, stare at the goal as if there’s large, mythical optometrist flipping lenses over the goal asking “1..or 2.” The tall, slow guy will go through all of this just to miss and have courtside commentators and sports radio personalities discuss whether this is a viable basketball strategy or not.
Not Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant is listed at 6’9. He’s not 6’9. We knew he was taller than that, but he finally admitted that he is a true 7-footer with shoes on in 2016, which means he plays at 7-foot. In contrast to the paragraph above, no one has ever attempted to employ the hack-a-Durant strategy. Instead of shaky confidence, KD shimmies then strokes free throws at an 88% clip on average. Teams actually try to avoid fouling him, but often can’t help themselves. He shoots eight free throws per game for his career. Putting it lightly, Durant is hard to guard. Your favorite team’s small forward is probably too small and the power forward is much too slow. We won’t even bother with the center. That guy doesn’t have a chance.
This era is a rare one. The hip hop generation is straddling the line of old enough to know better, but young enough to not care. We ushered in the baggy clothes and made gangster rap mainstream. We took pride in being able to tell a rapper’s regional ties based purely off their style and accent. We now find it difficult to move past that into the stretchy pants, homogenous lingo, androgynous music of today. Despite the ever-growing generation gap, Jay-Z and Lil Uzi Vert listeners alike can look at LeBron James and understand that what we’re seeing is abnormal. That has been an agreement since he was in high school. For my money, Kevin Durant is also from another realm. To have a 7-footer who can run, dribble, shoot the way he does is once in a lifetime. Looking through a purist lens, Durant is a shooting guard by nature. He averages more than 27 points for his career while logging the mass majority of his minutes on the perimeter.
Remember that 50-40-90 club I mentioned earlier? KD had an entire season at that peak efficiency. The NBA has been around since 1946. Well over 3000 players have laced up and hooped in the league. You know how many are in that illustrious club? Seven. That’s it. Seven.
Dirk Nowitzki is in that club, but he can’t run or dribble. Larry Bird is in that club, but he could barely dunk. As great as both of those guys are, they’re not exactly hitting boys with a drop cross into a eurostep on the break, and you could probably count on a few fingers the combined number of times both guys have dunked in traffic. The other five are small guards and Reggie Miller. That is what makes Kevin Durant an out of this world talent. There isn’t much he can’t do on the offensive end. This year was the lowest scoring average since his rookie year. He averaged 25. On a team with arguably the best two shooters this world has ever seen, he averaged 25 despite shooting the least amount of shots of his career.
Admittedly, I was in the group that criticized KD for joining up with the Warriors. I thought it was a wack move. I’m not sure I don’t think that now. One thing I am sure of is that Durant is one of the greatest players you or I will ever see. As I wrote this, my fiancée said, “Durantula is the greatest player in the league.” I detest the nickname, and probably don’t agree that the throne is his, but it is a discussion worth having. The degree of effortlessness he floated up and down the floor getting buckets by the dozen in the Finals was something to behold. As we know, I’m not one for hyperbole, so I will leave with this: appreciate Durant. There is no promise you will see a 7-foot offensive juggernaut like this again.
**Note** This is Example 3/5 of our coiski 101: How to Effectively Write Descriptive Articles lesson.