Those threes are in Kawhi Leonard’s and Kyle Lowry’s faces. That is the best defensive pairing in all of basketball right now, with Kawhi being the best on ball defender of this generation. Again, he hung 51 on the best defender on this planet. The internet has many names for Kevin Durant. Snake, coward and a whole bunch of others that aren’t appropriate for these friendly airwaves. The one thing the internet refuses to call KD is what he actually deserves, and that’s one of the very best to ever play the game. I personally have thought Durant was top ten for a few years now, but because I was petrified of the internet’s scorn I sat on that take. Now it is undeniable, it isn’t even close. Any reason you can come up with to deny this man’s greatness, is very much applicable to any of the legends you hold in high regard. Don’t believe me? Allow me to show you the error of your foolish ways.
Are you one of these morons who think his move to Golden State completely ruins his legacy? Do you think joining a team that features the best point guard alive and a top 3 shooting guard makes Durant’s accomplishments null and void? Allow me to introduce you to Wilt Chamberlain. Yes, decades before that “snake” Kevin Durant hightailed it to the Bay, Wilt spent two entire seasons communicating with the Lakers behind the scenes. Brokering trade proposals between La La Land and the City of Brotherly Love, eventually he was swapped for Darrall Imhoff, Jerry Chambers, and Archie Clark. Some real studs right? Now did he do what Durant did? Did he join a historic team, littered with Hall of Famers, that lost in the finals to the best player on the planet? That is quite literally exactly what he did. The year prior the Jerry West and Elgin Baylor led Lakers breezed through the Western Conference playoffs, beating Chicago 4-1 and San Francisco 4-0. They were promptly beaten by the Bill Russell led Celtics, much like everyone else who opposed Bill and the boys. After joining this cast of All Stars to dethrone the Celtics, Wilt and the Lakers promptly lost the Celtics in the finals twice. They then went out and got Gail Goodrich, another Hall of Famer, and only won one ring. Imagine if Durant lost to LeBron TWICE, then Golden State had to go out and get another star for him to play with. Somehow Wilt gets a free pass yet Durant’s name is sullied. If we as a basketball community are going to have Durant super team slander thrown around, in the name of consistency, we have to drag Chamberlain through the internet mud as well.
Way too many people criticize Durant for not making it work with Russell Westbrook. Those same idiots had tears in their eyes watching Kobe shoot 50 times in his last game. Somehow, Durant is considered nationwide to be a horrendous teammate and a coward for not wanting to play with Russ, yet Kobe Bryant is herald as a champion and leader despite demanding either himself or Shaq be traded after Kobe shot the Lakers out of the Finals against Detroit in 04.
That is correct, Kobe Bean Bryant almost single handedly lost the series against the Pistons. Shaquille O’ Neal posted 26.6 points 10.8 boards and 1.6 assists a night, shooting a walloping 63% from the floor. This is all against the Defensive Player of the Year winner Ben Wallace. Kobe trotted out every night with a line of 22.6 points 2.8 boards and 4.4 dimes. At first glance those numbers are perfectly fine, until you see his horrid shooting splits of 38/17/92. He shot SEVENTEEN percent from three. It isn’t like he went 1-9 and stopped either, he averaged 4.6 attempts a game. After Oklahoma City got bounced the last time, a series in which KD wasn’t great but he wasn’t Kobe bad, Durant went through the end of season press conference like a pro, and met with multiple teams seeking the best deal. What people forget is Golden State and Boston got one meeting with Durant. He met with the Thunder three times trying to make it work. Pleading with ownership to make moves to not waste his prime. What did Kobe do after what was, at the time, his lowest on court moment? He blamed everyone else, said “it’s either Shaq or me” then was the best player on a stinky team until he got the Sixth Man of the Year in Lamar Odom and a future Hall of Famer in Pau Gasol. If you did a word association exercise across the nation with Kobe and Durant (limited to basketball) you’d get far more positive answers for Kobe despite him handling a similar situation much worse. If you want to hold how Durant handled his last year in Oklahoma City against him, fine, go ahead, but you then have to hold the dismantling of a dynasty on Kobe.
My favorite Durant slander tactic is the “Durant took a cut to stay with a super team” argument. For those of you who don’t know, Golden State has taken full advantage of the NBA’s “Bird Rights” which in essence means that if you have a guy for three years, you can sign him to whatever you want, even if you don’t have the cap space. Golden State used this on Steph Curry, yet still were a little thin in the cap going forward. Durant opted out, taking a team friendly deal to allow Golden State more room to wiggle with upcoming free agents Klay Thompson and Draymond Green looking to get paid. They also used the freed up money to sign All Star center Demarcus Cousins to a one year deal. As the Warriors cap situation develops, people continue to point at Durant and type loudly to voice their displeasure. However, they refuse to acknowledge where those Bird Rights come from. Look no further than the 80’s Celtics and one Lawrence Joe Bird. Celtics former coach and GM Red Auerbach was very much known for bending and changing rules. With Bird’s contract soon expiring, and the Celtics looking to keep their MVP, Auerbach pitched the idea of a “soft salary cap” and the rest is history. He put the Bird Rights in place to retain Bird and his two Hall of Fame teammates Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. That is actual bending and changing of rules to keep superstars together, all Durant did was take less money to assist his team, like Tom Brady does annually.
Notice though, I haven’t mentioned a single stat of Durant’s since his point total last night. I’ve spent this entire time breaking down every poor excuse people have to throw at Durant to dismantle his on court abilities. Comparing him to beloved legends to show these guys were just as shady too, because when you look at the numbers, Durant is better than most of them.
Durant is viewed by some ignoramuses as a “volume scorer”. A guy who can only contribute by getting shots up in bunches. While neither guy falls under such a restricting title, the best guy to compare him to is Kobe. I’m not going to hold Kobe’s lack of rebounding against him. Durant is 7 feet and Kobe is not, it’s a bloodbath statistically and understandably so. However, Kobe is credited as being one of the best scorers, and jump shooters of all time. Durant washes him from every part of the floor. For his career Kobe shot 44% from the floor, 32% from deep and 83% from the charity stripe. Kevin Durant shoots 49% from the field, 38% from three and 88% from the line. That is a 3-0 sweep for the guy who’s a 7 foot shot blocking phenom, who also has played all five positions on both ends of the floor effectively. So this one isn’t even close in retrospect on paper. Dummies like to point at Kobe’s “Mamba Mentality” which actually means less than nothing. Kobe’s field goal percentages are all very average late in playoff games and Durant did this;
And then this a year later;
Game. Set. Match. Durant.
The real comparison is Durant vs Bird for the title of second best small forward of all time. Number one is LeBron and if you disagree calmly take your computer, laptop or smart device, go to the nearest body of water, a lake or latrine will do, and throw it right on in. Then grab a train to Pennsylvania and join the nearest Amish community because you do not deserve the endless information at your finger tips. Aside from the height and athleticism that Durant has in bunches, Bird and KD are very similar. Both play well on and off the ball, both can score from anywhere, and both played with All Star talent. A quick gander at the stats shows a tie in field goal percentage, a tie in in free throw percentage, and a slight edge in three point shooting to Kevin Durant. Bird has him in boards and assists while Durant takes it home in blocks.
Why do I give the edge to Durant? The same aforementioned reason that put him over Kobe in a landslide. Regardless of the lineup, regardless of the scheme, regardless of any measurable statistic or metric, you can plug Durant in anywhere. Need a ball handler? Durant does that. Need a jump shooting wing? Durant does that. Need a low post monster? Durant does that. Need a big in the middle? Durant does that too, on both ends, and better than most. Every reason that you, the reader, has to hate Durant proves hypocritical when compared to the rest of the league’s history. Almost every legend at some point took the easy way out, or opted not to make things harder for themselves, much like Durant did. So if you hate Durant for that, fine, I’m still not happy he went to Golden State either. However, take a good hard look at every Hall of Famer who you think did it the “right way”. Odds are they didn’t and odds are Durant is better than them too.
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