Durant’s Leadership, Strength Fuel MVP Win
To those in Oklahoma City and all over the world, the impact Kevin Durant has on the court for the Thunder has always been viewed as immense. This season, the NBA officially recognized it in the strongest way that it can, by presenting him with its most prestigious award.
The five-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA First Team selection and four-time NBA scoring champion has another, even more significant accolade to add to his collection – NBA MVP. The NBA voters were emphatic in their selection of Durant as MVP, as the Thunder forward garnered 119 of the 124 possible first place votes.
In 2013-14, Durant was the most consistent, effective player in the NBA by working relentlessly on both ends of the court to improve his game, not just from last season, but even during the year as he led the Thunder to a 59-23 regular season mark, the second best record in the NBA.
This MVP award for Durant has been years in the making, as he has been a part of every minute of the Thunder's existence as a franchise. All of the work that he put in from the moment he entered the league through the Thunder's current playoff run has coalesced to not only help shape the player that he is today, but also set the internal standards for the Thunder organization on and off the court.
"To have someone like that in our organization, but also in our community is a great, great thing," Thunder General Manager Presti said of Durant. "It's certainly not something to be taken for granted."
In the gym and in the community, the seventh-year forward displays character, confidence and strength on an incredibly consistent basis throughout the entire year. Through adversity during the season, be it tough stretches for the team, injuries to Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins, or long road trips, Durant was always there for his teammates.
When the Thunder needed a boost on both offense or defense, Durant seemingly always had an answer with a steal, a tough bucket or a word of encouragement for his team. His determined approach ensured that even in dire circumstances during games, his teammates never felt like they were out of any game.
"It's his leadership," teammate Serge Ibaka said. "I saw it when Russell was out. He was able to keep the team up. Not only on offense, but he's been getting better on defense too. He's been rebounding the ball, he's been passing the ball really well in the regular season. That type of stuff made him a different player this season."
By averaging a career-best 32.0 points per game, Durant once again led the league in scoring, but still managed to nearly repeat his remarkable 50-40-90 shooting splits from the 2012-13 season. Durant shot 50.3 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from the 3-point line and 87.3 percent from the free-throw line, all while improving other aspects of his game.
Durant averaged nearly a full assist more than his previous career-high, with 5.5 per game, in addition to grabbing 7.4 rebounds per contest. In fact, Durant became just the fourth player besides Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor to ever average 32 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game in a single season.
During the year, Durant dazzled with his coring prowess, registering at least 30 points in 12 consecutive games, and racking up the third longest streak in NBA history of games with 25-or-more points, with 41 straight. Coupled with his consistent scoring was his flair for the dramatic, including game winning shots in the closing seconds over the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors to name a few.
Perhaps his most essential impact this season, however, was his defense and rebounding, which has steadily improved over his career. His ability to lock up players on the perimeter and use his length to bother shooters and protect the rim have served him well, as his commitment to hitting the glass has allowed him to get defensive boards and immediately initiate the Thunder's offense.
"He is self-motivated," Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said earlier this season. "He's a tremendous kid that does everything for his team and for his organization. We are proud of him because he gives everything he has."
"He does it every night and his consistency is remarkable," Brooks said.
For his part, Durant has always been gracious, humble and deferential of praise. After each game, Durant is quick to point out teammates' contributions rather than his own, all while striving to find ways to make an even deeper impact for the team.
At just 25 years old, Durant knows that he's still just entering the prime of his career, so he still has plenty of work and improvement ahead of him. For the Thunder, Durant's dedication to the organization and the Oklahoma City community over the years has shown his commitment to doing the right thing and not skipping steps. That attitude, above all, shows why he deserves to be the NBA's MVP.
"I can't emphasize more that I'm just excited to be a part of such a great organization and program that has a plan," Durant said. "Hopefully we just keep it up."