Will Kevin Durant Ever Be Top 5 All-Time?
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Expectations were high for Kevin Durant at the beginning of this past 2019/2019 NBA season. Most basketball experts said the Warrior’s three-peat was a sure thing. Maybe it would have been, if not for the team’s horrendous rash of untimely injuries in the postseason.
After such a historic run on the Warriors, there is a quite an immense pressure building, almost draping itself over the NBA; Durant’s free 2019 summer agency decision. Will he stay in Golden State, or will he go to a team far less accomplished, like the Knicks? A presently rated bare-minimum top-five player in the game, Durant’s decision will assuredly change the course of NBA history, irrespective of the destination he chooses.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen, this free agency decision will likely have a long-lasting effect on KD’s legacy; a legacy that has recently been the subject of persistently contentious debate. Although already a top-50 player all time, Durant has his goals set much higher. He wants to be known as one of the greats - a worthy participant in the G.O.A.T discussion with Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Unfortunately, it appears that his time in Golden State did his legacy a disservice. While he did win two NBA Finals MVP awards, the journey was not so difficult for the All-NBA forward. While most star players in the playoffs have to deal with tough defenses heavily targeting them, Durant had as much space as possible to roam the floor. This space is created because he has two of the greatest shooters of all time in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson roaming the three-point line on every possession, along with a stellar point forward in Draymond Green creating openings with his passing ability.
While it seems likely that Durant has the talent of an all-time legend, he hasn’t faced the adversity of one. Or better put, he hasn’t overcome the adversity most all-time legends have to in order to be anointed G.O.A.T-worthy. Michael beat the Pistons after several failures. Bird and Magic both lost to each other and also beat one another. LeBron took an aging D-Wade and a diminished Chris Bosh to back to back championships and came back from down 3-1 with Kyrie and K-Love to beat the winningest team in NBA history.
Many basketball experts, such as Chris Broussard, credit LeBron’s Cleveland title as being worth two or three titles. This is due to various reasons. It was the first Cavs championship in NBA history. He beat what was thought to be one of the greatest teams all time, having set the record for wins in a season. It was the first time a finals team came back to win a championship after going down 3-1.
In much the same way, Durant’s two titles are worth less. If the Cavs title is worth two or three championships for LeBron, Durant’s two aren’t even worth one regular title. The lack of adversity and the unprecedented Hall of Fame talent on one roster negates his personal success. He simply had it easy.
While his total number of wins has benefited from being paired with three other future Hall of Famers in their prime, KD’s legacy has not. He will never be amongst the likes of Bird, Magic, Duncan and Olajuwon unless he leaves the Warriors and wins some more, with a franchise not so historically loaded up on in-house, (relatively) cheap & retainable talent.
I think the for Durant to ever be considered amongst the top five greatest players of all time, he not only needs to leave, but also win two or three championships with other teams; hopefully teams with two or three Hall of Famers rather than four or five (Andre Iguodala most likely has an outside chance at HOF induction, as well).
As free agency quickly approaches, we’ll soon get to see what direction KD will go in, and what the short and long-term repercussions will follow for his growing legacy.