Archive 75

Kevin Durant

By Michael C. Wright·

You might want to scoot back a little because your screen’s about to catch fire. Kevin Durant – a defender’s worst nightmare -- gets buckets in nearly every way imaginable, and these 30 plays that you’re about to see from a storied NBA career carry nothing but heat.

Dunks, ball-handling, passing, 3-point shooting … Durant provides it all in this series of clips, which also showcase the forward’s prowess as an underrated defender who routinely snuffs out opponents in transition with his massive 7-foot-5 wingspan.

A two-time NBA champion, 12-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year in 2008, MVP in 2014, and two-time Finals MVP, Durant is blessed with the rare combination of size (6-foot-10) and a feather-soft shooting touch that has enabled him to capture four scoring crowns to tie George Gervin and Allen Iverson for the third-most in league annals.

What’s more is Durant is still going strong in his 14th NBA season.

The second pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, Durant came into the league already exuding confidence borne from competing in training camp as an 18-year-old with the USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team on a roster featuring legends Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Dwight Howard ahead of the FIBA Americas Championship.

“I committed to USA Basketball when I was coming out of college, and every chance that I can get that I’m healthy and my mind’s in the right place to play basketball, I’m going to go out there and play,” Durant said in July of 2021, just before winning his third Olympic gold medal on the way to becoming the most decorated player in USA Basketball history.

Coming off the stint with USA Basketball, Durant became the only Seattle SuperSonic to win NBA Rookie of the Year, serving as one of the few bright spots for a team that captured 20 victories before relocating to Oklahoma City. Durant averaged 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists as a rookie.

The game-winner you see in this video at Atlanta came early in the season in November, but Durant closed out his rookie campaign by scoring twice in the final 45 seconds as his team rallied from a six-point deficit in the final three minutes to defeat Dallas 99-95 in the Sonics’ final game in Seattle. Durant followed up with a then career-high 42 points in the season finale at Golden State.

Durant finished his rookie season in dominating fashion, setting career highs with 42 points and 13 rebounds to net his first NBA double-double in Seattle’s 126-121 win over the Golden State Warriors. The brilliant display closed out a trying season for Durant and the SuperSonics, as the NBA’s Board of Governors was set to vote that same week to approve the team’s eventual move to Oklahoma City.

Just 10 days before that performance, Durant scored a season-high 37 points in a win over Denver.

“Coming into this league, you can’t come in and dominate straightaway,” Durant said after the season finale. “So I had to go through some learning curves, and my coaches and teammates helped me out a lot, and toward the end of the season I think I got better and learned how to play the game a little bit more.”

Durant’s confidence continued to grow over his first three seasons, and his scoring average reflected as much, increasing from 20.3 points as a rookie to 25.3 in Year 2, before swelling to 30.1 in Year 3. It was in that third season that Durant nabbed his first scoring title as well as his first postseason appearance.

Durant edged LeBron James in scoring by 0.4 points per game to take the scoring crown, becoming the youngest player in NBA history (21 years, 197 days old) to achieve that milestone. He scored 30 points or more in 46 contests.

That marked the first of three consecutive scoring titles for Durant.

Durant was on full display during the first round of the 2010 playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers took a 2-0 lead in that series, but Durant carried Oklahoma City over the next two games to tie the series at 2-2 going into Game 5.

“The Lakers gave us a lot of confidence. We lost in six [games], but I think that we were right there,” Durant said. “If I would’ve made a couple more shots, maybe we would’ve been all right. But I think it did give us some confidence.”

Durant’s performance in that series also caught the attention of Kobe Bryant, who scored 32 points in Game 6 as Los Angeles eliminated the Thunder from the postseason with a 95-94 win. Bryant would go on to win his second straight Finals MVP, but Durant had put the basketball world on notice.

Gratitude clung tightly to every word Kevin Durant uttered when delivering this touching speech after accepting the 2013-14 MVP Award.

“I had so much help. So many people believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” Durant said. “I’ve failed so many times and got back up. I went through the toughest times with my family. But I’m still standing.”

With point guard Russell Westbrook missing nearly 30 games due to a knee injury, Durant took on the most significant load of his career to that point, finishing with a career-best and NBA-high 32 points per game on 50.3% from the floor to go with a career-high 5.5 assists, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in leading Oklahoma City to a 59-23 record, good for second in the Western Conference. Durant would take home 119 of 125 first-place votes after winning his fourth scoring crown in five seasons.

With his mother Wanda Durant crying in the audience, Durant directed the most touching portion of his speech to her, highlighting the sacrifices made that allowed the star forward to reach MVP status.

“We weren’t supposed to be here,” Durant said. “You sacrificed for us. You[‘re] the real MVP.”

Durant shocked basketball fans by penning a post for “The Players’ Tribune” on July 4, 2016 announcing his decision to leave Oklahoma City after spending the first nine years of his career with that organization.

“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player -- as that has always steered me in the right direction,” Durant wrote. “But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to find a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”

 

Two years removed from winning the franchise’s fourth title, Golden State added a valuable contributor in Durant, who would help the Warriors run off two more championship seasons.

In his first year with the Warriors, Durant averaged 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the regular season as the team finished with the NBA’s best record (67-15). And he would crank up his production when the stakes got higher. In finishing as the top scorer in every game of the 2017 Finals against Cleveland, Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists to earn his first Finals MVP as Golden State bested the Cavaliers 4-1 in the series.

The Warriors repeated as champions in 2018 with Durant posting his first postseason triple-double in Game 4 to lead the team’s sweep of the Cavaliers. He averaged 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.3 blocks in that series to win his second consecutive Finals MVP trophy. Durant became just the 11th player to win Finals MVP twice.

Recovering from the torn Achilles suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant sat out the 2019-20 season only to return in 2020-21 in a new uniform and nearly back to full form.  When Durant’s storied career finally comes to a close, many might point to Game 5 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks as arguably the greatest game he’s ever played.

With Kyrie Irving out and James Harden fighting through a hamstring injury, Durant churned out a legendary performance to help Brooklyn rally from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Bucks 114-108 and take a 3-2 lead in the series.

 

Durant played in all 48 minutes, posting just his second career postseason triple-double with 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists to go with three steals and two blocks. He became just the fourth player in history to put up at least 40 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a playoff game, joining the likes of Oscar Robertson, Charles Barkley, and Luka Doncic.

Durant’s performance marked the first 45-15-10 game in the NBA playoffs.

He poured in 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Nets outscored Milwaukee 33-21 down the stretch.

With 50.5 ticks left, Durant nailed a 3-pointer to put Brooklyn ahead 109-105. He followed that with a steal and knocked down 3-of-4 free throws in the last 15 seconds to seal the victory, as the crowd at Barclay’s Center erupted with “MVP” chants.

Durant hit 16-of-23 from the floor, and 13-of-16 from the free-throw line.

“Just [a] historic, historic performance,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said. “We know he’s capable of nights like this. But to do it [now]. We lose [Kyrie Irving], James [Harden] obviously is going through his ailments. We’re down bodies. We’re wounded. For him to have the toughness, that mentality, that’s what makes him one of the all-time greats. That’s a signature performance for Kevin, and it was beautiful to watch.”