I literally just started writing this blog post and I’m already frustrated. Compiling Kevin Durant’s greatest moments list now is a bit like writing your memoirs at the age of 25. You know that it’s incomplete and every day it becomes more outdated. Especially when you put a ranking on it, which I’m totally gonna do because I’m a judgmental person. If you have two great moments in your life chances are that I will decide (for myself) which one was greater than the other. Yeah, I’m that guy. I rank stuff.
So what’s the point in ranking something that’s incomplete? The point is that a lot has happened in KD’s career already and at the halfway point it does not hurt to look back. So this list is a work in progress. Let’s call it Kevin Durant’s greatest moments 1.0.
#8. Rookie of the Year – 2008
I admit putting Durant’s first NBA award on last place is a bit odd but I have my reasons. Winning Rookie of the Year is a great achievement but look at the competition KD went up against in Year One. Durant was picked at No. 2 in the 2007 draft. First pick was Greg Oden who ended up missing the entire season because of microfracture surgery on his knee and let’s just say it was not the last time he missed some playing time. There were a couple of good players in that class but none of them on KD’s level. Al Horford, Mike Conley, Joakim Noah, Thaddeus Young, Nick Young & Marco Belinelli. Marc Gasol was there too, but the Spaniard was picked 48th in the 2nd round and stayed in Europe for another year before he joined the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008. Same as in Greg Oden’s case not playing a minute of NBA basketball kinda hurts your chances of winning ROY. So without diminishing KD’s great rookie season (20.3 pts, 4.4 reb, 2.4 ass) he probably could have played on one leg to win this. There just was nobody else.
#7. All-Star Game MVP – 2012
By the time the 2012 All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Florida, rolled around, Kevin Durant had already established himself as the league’s best scorer winning the two previous scoring crowns (with averages of 30.1 pts & 27.7 pts respectively). To no one’s surprise KD came out guns blazing in the annual showcase of the league’s best (read: most popular) players, pitting East against West in the good ol’ days of conference rivalry. On a Western Conference Team that was stacked with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Dirk Nowitzki and Blake Griffin, Durant scored a game-high 36 points, shooting 14 of 25 from the field in 37 minutes. Dominating in a game that doesn’t mean anything might be impressive for some, but for me it’s no. 7 on KD’s greatest moments list.
#6. Olympic Gold – 2012
Olympic Gold usually ranks very high in every NBA player’s achievement list but in this case I think we need to differentiate. I strictly see these moments in the light of how important was KD in the context of the moment. While Kevin Durant was USA Basketball’s top scorer for the Olympic Basketball Tournament in London I would rank this achievement lower than the Olympic Gold that would follow 4 years later. Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Lebron James gave the 2012 team a strong identity and orchestrated the offense (and defense) to perfection. In my opinion the 2012 Olympic Team is the only team that comes close to the original Dream Team in terms of dominance. They averaged 115.5 pts per game and won by an average margin of 32.1 pts. The aforementioned Big Three of Kobe, CP3 and LBJ used Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony as the main offensive tools to beat their opponents but don’t think for a second they could not have done it themselves.
#5. Olympic Gold – 2016
Now this is something else entirely. Without Kobe, without CP3 and without Lebron, Team USA was in dire need of a leader and they found him in Kevin Durant. He ended up leading the team in scoring again, but he did so much more. Shooting an incredible 57.8% from the field, 58.1% from three and 81.3% from the line, KD established himself as a bonafide international superstar putting the US team on his back to win the Gold. How important was Kevin Durant to that 2016 Rio team? I don’t think they would have won without him. That team was not good. It was probably the first time that an Olympic USA basketball team was dependent on one single player. That player was Durant and he came through like only a true superstar can.
#4. 50-40-90 – 2013
Not many people know about this achievement mainly because there is no trophy or ceremony that comes with it. Adam Silver does not shake your hand and there is no press conference for you to cry in. It is not an official NBA award simply because it does not happen very often. The 50-40-90 club is the nickname for a small group of players who managed to shoot 50+% from the field, 40+% from three and 90+% from the line in one season. This feat is so impressive that in the history of the NBA only 7 players achieved it. Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. That’s it. Needless to say looking at the players on this list you need to be an exceptional shooter having an exceptional season to get this achievement.
#3. 66 at Rucker – 2011
In August 2011 Kevin Durant put on a show at New York’s famed Rucker Park, dropping 66 points in one game. Today, seeing a professional NBA player making an appearance at the Rucker is rare. It used to be different. In the 60s and 70s NBA players played pick up games there on a regular basis. Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Irving… They all played at the Rucker and shared their talent with people who usually could not afford to go to NBA games. Then players became multi-million dollar entities who had to think about getting hurt, endorsement deals and – in the age of instant messaging and social media – global embarrassment. KD did not care about all of that. He laced ’em up and lit up an offensive firestorm that people still talk about to this day. There are rare moments when basketball players become “unconscious” and get in what they call “the zone”. This was one of those moments. If you haven’t already go and watch the video below of the 4th quarter. KD went supernova on them fools and the crowd went wild.
#2. MVP – 2014
“You’re the real MVP”. The sentiment of Kevin Durant’s press conference has gone viral like only Allen Iverson’s infamous “practice” rant. In fact I know people who use “You’re the real MVP” as an expression in their everyday lives and I am pretty sure they have no idea where it’s coming from. If you’re reading this I expect better from you. Of course it originated from the unforgettable MVP speech Kevin Durant gave in May 2014 when he thanked his mother for helping him reach this point. And there were tears. Lots of them. But there was also a season that established KD as a complete player. Up until that season people saw Durant as an exceptional scorer. Then Russell Westbrook had knee surgery and everyone expected the Thunder to drop in the standings. Durant put them on his back, showed some playmaking skills nobody knew he had and they soared, shocking everyone while they stayed among the league’s elite even after Russ went down. It was the height of Kevin Durant’s popularity.
#1. Back-to-Back NBA Championship – 2017/2018
When Kevin Durant won his first NBA championship in 2017 it was the culmination of all the hard work, all the trials and tribulations of a (young) life chasing “the ring”. It also left a bitter sweet taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Tons of stuff has been written about KD’s decision to join a rival team that went 73-9 just the year before, so I won’t get into that. Kevin Durant dominated the Finals. There is no other way to put it. It’s one thing to have a 50-40-90 season. To average that in the NBA Finals is on another level. KD had 35.2 pts, 8.4 reb, 5.4 ass on 55.6% (field), 47.4% (three), 92.7% (line) shooting per game. And while it’s true that he joined an already stacked team you can’t deny he was a great fit. He could have just been a passenger on a championship ride that came as surprising as sand in the Sahara. But instead he took control of that team, led them to a 67-15 season and a 16-1 postseason record, which is best in NBA history. You can’t deny greatness.
For the second straight year now, the Golden State Warriors are NBA champions. And for the second straight year, KD is the NBA Finals MVP. Averaging 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.3 blocks in the Finals series, the Durantula put yet another exclamation mark on his exacting and epic game. Two rings and two MVP awards in a row are the best proof that Kevin Durant made the right decision for his career, leaving OKC daring to become.