KD Earns Scoring Title With Assist From Teammates

It seems like Kevin Durant has never been so adamant about something, than about just how much he doesn’t care for the NBA scoring title.

For a young man who has never been one for chasing and collecting individual honors, he wasn’t about to start now. Not when the final homestretch of the regular season was front and center, when he and LeBron James remained neck-and-neck for the scoring title, as they’ve done throughout this season. And not even as the Thunder approached game No. 82 on the season, when he was close to a lock to win the thing.

Heck, on the Thunder’s last homestand, as he stood in front of his locker stall following games against Denver and Phoenix, Durant even seemed a bit irked by the constant questioning of: 1. Would he like to win the scoring title?; 2. How does it feel to have the title in reach?; and 3. What would it mean to win one?

Durant bucked up and stayed the course, saying it would be an honor but it wasn’t something he’s thinking of. Just give him some more wins and he’ll be happy. It’s just another example of how everyone on the roster has that collective mindset – the team comes before the individual.

Durant has already proven that he can score the ball in every which way possible, and score it at a high rate and on a consistent basis. So he already had his affirmation as a premier scorer. A title is, well, just a title. It surely doesn’t define him.

But, hey, someone had to lead the league in scoring. And so Durant’s name will go into the record books as the NBA scoring leader for the 2009-10 season. At 21 years, 197 days old, Durant became the youngest player in league history to win the scoring title with an average of 30.1 points, 0.4 in front of James.

Head coach Scott Brooks acknowledged Durant doing it at such a young age, which he said was one of the only times he’s referenced age.

And after the game, Durant allowed himself to talk about it.

“It’s going to be cool to go home and my friends say you were the scoring champ at 21 years old,” he said. “It’s a blessing. It’s something I can’t take for granted and I’ve got to continue to work from here.”

And as much as Durant is all about the team – from him wanting to blend in with the fellas at the Las Vegas Summer League to him refusing to take the lion’s share of credit after wins in which he carried the team offensively to him consistently thanking his teammates for trusting him with the ball this season – finishing the season atop the scoring list has put him in some elite company with numbers that will also be inked in the record books.

Let’s count the ways.

Durant was the youngest to win the title since Max Zaslofsky of the Chicago Stags, who was 22 years old when he won it in the 1947-48 season. What’s more, Durant is the first player in franchise history to lead the league in scoring, so he’s alone in that category as well.

And in terms of Durant’s record scoring season, that’s only the beginning.

Durant had already set the all-time franchise record for most points scored in a single season, passing Dale Ellis in an April 4 win over Minnesota. Durant also reached the 2,000-point plateau in a March 31 loss to Indiana, reaching the threshold in just his 68th game and becoming one of two NBA players to have ever accomplished that feat at the age of 21 or younger.

Durant got things going 68 seconds into the season, against the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 28 in a sold-out Ford Center, when he took a pass from Russell Westbrook and dunked in his first points of the 2009-10 season.

So where did the rest of his points come from?

According to hoopdata.com, Durant’s favorite area on the floor was in the 16- to 23-foot range, where he attempted 5.9 shots per game entering the regular season finale. The thousands of midrange jump shots he practiced before, during and after practices, and on game days, no doubt helped with that. Durant also made 70 percent of the more than 500 shots he took at the rim, which speaks to his dedication to attack the basket on a frequent basis.

And when Durant got to the rim, he usually went to the free-throw line, where he had – wait for it – a historic season.

More than a third of Durant’s points came from the line, where he made 751 shots heading into the final game of the regular season. It’s the most free-throw makes in franchise history, the most in a single season since Michael Jordan made 833 in the 1986-87 season and made him the only player in league history to convert 700-plus free throws while shooting better than 89 percent from the line. With 10 made free throws in Monday’s loss to Portland, Durant moved into seventh place on the all-time list for free throws in a season.

Durant’s 46 games of 30 or more points led the league, was a franchise record and, more importantly, the Thunder was 30-16 when he hit that mark. Durant set another franchise record when he dropped at least 30 points in seven consecutive games back in late December to early January; James was the last player to string together a run like that -- three seasons ago.

And while it happened months ago, there’s no forgetting the 29 games in a row in which Durant scored at least 25 points. He was the only active NBA player to do so and the first in NBA history to do it under the age of 22. That Jordan fellow was the last player to accomplish that feat. And the Thunder benefited greatly from it, posting a 20-9 mark during the streak.

Whether the Thunder was winning all those games or not, Durant’s approach never changed. He always was out there with the coaching staff putting up shots. Brooks loves Durant’s work ethic, calling him a consistent worker and creature of habit.

“Kevin, that’s the beauty of his game – he makes it look easy,” Brooks said. “I think all the great scorers do that.”

After nearly every one of his big scoring nights, Durant always reminded the media that a lot of the credit for his scoring success goes to his teammates. According to hoopdata.com, 52.2 percent of Durant’s shots were assisted this season, which only goes to show that leading the league in scoring is far from an individual accomplishment alone.

“Were excited that he did get it but more importantly we’re excited that he got it through making winning basketball plays throughout the year,” Brooks said. “It wasn’t that Kevin was focused on jacking up shots and being the scoring champ.”