At #13 of my NBA75 Greatest Players of All Time list https://www.djssportsshow.com/post/nba-75-greatest-players-of-all-time
, and the first switch on my list is none other than the polarizing seven-foot monster, Kevin Durant, someone who has guardlike skills, can pull up from 30 feet and cross you up, and has changed the game, with every lanky, tall guy wanting to play like him! Durant was born on September 29, 1988, in Washington, D.C., to his mother, Wanda, and his father, Wayne, who deserted him at a young age.
Durant would become a basketball prodigy at a very young age after his father came back when Durant was around 13 years old to take him to basketball tournaments, where he dominated the competition. Durant was taller than most kids from a young age, standing six feet tall in his middle school years but displaying the skills of a guard. He grew up in a basketball-crazed area of Washington D.C., where he instantly became one of the top prospects after entering high school.
He would go on to play in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) for the PG Jaguars, alongside future NBA players such as Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, and Greivis Vasquez, where they would go on to win multiple national championships.
Durant played two years of high school basketball at National Academy and a year at Oak Hill Academy, where he averaged 19.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 65% from the field and 42% from the three-point range as a junior. During his senior season at Montrose Christian Academy, he grew five inches to stand at 6-foot-7. He averaged 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 54.6% at Montrose. This would help him be named a McDonald’s All-American in 2006, as well as being named the MVP of the game. He was also selected as the Washington Post’s Met Basketball Player of the Year.
Durant would commit to playing for the Texas Longhorns under coach Rick Barnes. He went on to have one of the most dominant one-and-done seasons of all time, posting an average of (a jaw-dropping) 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game, with 47% shooting from the field and 40% from beyond the arc as a freshman! He not only had individual dominance but helped his team win as well, leading the Longhorns to a 25-10 record, and a 12-4 record in the Big 12.
Durant led Texas past New Mexico State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament but lost to USC despite an impressive 30-point and 9-rebound performance from Durant.
He would not reach the team goals he had dreamed of achieving, but he would be unanimously named the National Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American selection. Durant would go on to have a historic combine story: he was not able to bench press his own weight (185 lbs) at the time.
But this isn’t a bodybuilding competition of who can lift the heaviest; this is basketball, a game of skill, and “KD,” one of his nicknames, is one of the best and most skilled players to ever play, which is the reason why he went No. 2 overall to the then Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder) in the 2007 NBA Draft, behind Greg Oden.
Durant instantly showed why he was so highly coveted as a young prospect and how transcendent a player he would ultimately become by averaging 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game to win the 2008 Rookie of the Year. He would join his contemporaries LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to become the only teenagers in NBA history to average over 20 points per game over an entire season at the time.
Ultimately, he became known as “The Slim Reaper” or “KD.”. It was as if he was built in a lab to play basketball, being seven feet tall with a handle, being able to pull up from 30, and having a virtually unblockable shot. Durant is the unicorn of unicorns because we have never seen anyone at his size with his athleticism, handle and skill. Dirk Nowitzki was great but he didn’t have Durant’s handle or quickness. Kevin Garnett was a unicorn himself, but he couldn’t score like KD or have a handle as good as him. Durant is one of one and a two-time champion, a two-time Finals MVP, an NBA MVP (2014), an 11-time all-star, a nine-time All-NBA, a four-time scoring champion, the 2008 ROTY, and a part of the historic 50-40-90 club.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden all played their first three years together and made the NBA Finals in 2012 as a young team that looked like it was on the verge of being a dynasty. Sadly, they lost to LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Heat in five games. Harden was then traded in the summer of 2012 to Houston, and it was just Durant and Westbrook until 2016 when they formed one of the most dynamic duos in the league. They reached the Conference Finals twice in 2014 and 2016 but ultimately fell short of the NBA Finals. KD would controversially join the Golden State Warriors in 2016, the team that beat him that same season, coming back down 3-1 and had just won 73 games in a season, an NBA record.
Durant would win two championships with the Warriors but with much scrutiny. He, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala formed the Hampton Five and became the most powerful offensive unit in league history. He would sadly leave the Warriors, tearing his Achilles and joining the Brooklyn Nets in 2019 as he has failed to bring a title to the Nets to show he can win without the Warriors.
He is the youngest to ever win a scoring title and score 10,000 points and is also one of seven players to ever win the scoring title in three straight seasons. He has changed the game of what a big guy can do, which has led to players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, Chet Holmgren, and entering the NBA in 2023, Victor Wenabayama! He is the ultimate unicorn!
He hasn’t been the best at choosing teammates. For example, choosing his good friend Kyrie Irving over Curry, led to Harden forcing his way out of Brooklyn to the Philadelphia Sixers this past season. Irving is known to be unreliable, whether due to injuries, sabbaticals, or whatever else there may be. With Curry and the Warriors winning the title this year, the Nets refusing to give Irving a long-term deal, and Durant only winning one playoff series since he joined the Nets, he has become frustrated with the franchise and has requested a trade.
Teams rumored to be in pursuit of Durant are the Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and Toronto Raptors, which are the favorites. Where will Durant end up? And, for one of the all-time greats, is it right for him to want out of Brooklyn with four years left on his contract? Does it hurt his legacy that he wants out again when things get tough and to take the easy way out by joining a top team such as the Heat or Suns?
We shall wait and see, as Durant is one of the most polarizing players the league has ever witnessed.