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Assessing The State Of Kevin Durant’s Legacy

Kevin Durant is one of the most prolific, talented scorers in the history of the National Basketball Association. Durant’s individual accomplishments on the hardwood speak for themselves. He is a four-time scoring champion, an MVP, a two-time NBA champion, and a two-time NBA Finals MVP. He is, without a doubt, one of the truly elite basketball players of the modern era.

However, Durant’s once flawless reputation has revealed some chinks in the armor over the past half-decade. A series of questionable decisions and actions have ultimately led Durant to his current situation, in which he has demanded a trade from the Brooklyn Nets. He is forcing his way out of a situation that he masterminded, after an overall disappointing three-year stint that saw him play in just 90 total regular season games. Has Kevin Durant’s disappointing run in Brooklyn impacted his legacy as an NBA great?

The Ultimatum

When Durant and Kyrie Irving teaming up in Brooklyn before the 2019/20 NBA season, they seemed destined for greatness. They demanded, and appeared to be granted, unprecedented levels of freedom and control over franchise decisions in Brooklyn. They even briefly added a third superstar in James Harden, but just couldn’t overcome themselves or an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference to reach their full potential and take home a ring.

Now, after signing a four-year, $198 million extension last August, Durant is already wiping his hands of the situation he helped build. It was reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic this week that Durant has issued an ultimatum to Nets’ ownership, in which they must choose between keeping him or keeping head coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks. This has left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths and has been the latest example of questionable decision-making and behavior that has negatively impacted Durant’s legacy in the league.

With that said, let’s take a closer look at the decisions and actions that have gotten Durant to this point, and how it has impacted his place in the echelon of NBA greats:

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Kevin Durant shocked the NBA world following the 2015/16 NBA season. After his Oklahoma City Thunder fell in historical fashion to the 73-win Golden State Warriors (blowing a three-to-one series lead) in the Western Conference Finals, Durant jumped ship and joined the team that had broken his heart just months earlier.

Durant earned the ire and ridicule of many around the basketball world in what was seen as a blatant display of ring chasing. Many fans believed that Durant had simply joined the enemy for an easy path to a championship. The Warriors had won a chip just a year earlier, made back-to-back finals, and had set the record for regular season wins, all without Durant’s help.

Durant did achieve his goal. He won two titles with Golden State along with two NBA Finals MVP trophies. However, there is a strong argument to be made that, despite Durant’s dominant play during that stretch, it was still Steph Curry’s team, and they may have won those titles even without the “Slim Reaper.”

Trouble In Paradise

Just three years after signing on with arguably the strongest dynasty of the 2000s, Durant was ready to move on. He had found himself at odds with Draymond Green, the team’s engine and defensive anchor, in a very public spat. In a locker room known around the league for its outstanding culture, Durant was unhappy and felt unappreciated by his teammates, the organization, and the fans.

Could Durant have possibly lacked the self-awareness to understand how his move to the Warriors had been perceived? Was he shocked that he wasn’t getting all of the credit for winning with a team that had already been historically good without him?

Fans will never know exactly what was going through Kevin Durant’s head at this time. Regardless, he moved on in free agency to build his own team with good friend Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. This decision seemed to point to a desire to be the true alpha on a squad and lead a team to a championship without having to share the glory with the pillars of a pre-existing dynasty.

Durant bet on himself, and as we now know, particularly in light of Steph Curry leading the Warriors to yet another title this past season, that bet has not paid off.

Troll Life

Kevin Durant has a very unique personality. This has made him a favorite among many of his teammates and his most loyal fans but has also led him to display a tendency for immature, sometimes peculiar behavior.

KD loves engaging with his critics online. He made headlines after comedian Michael Rapaport leaked threatening, insulting messages from Durant on social media. He has repeatedly lashed out at Stephen A. Smith for criticizing his decision-making over the years (specifically Smith’s commentary on the specific scenarios discussed in this article).

Durant has engaged critical fans on social media as well and has been recorded lashing out at fans during games. Durant was even called out for his use of burner accounts on Twitter to defend himself from fans (and forgetting to switch profiles).

While Durant is far from the first superstar to make emotional statements or show immaturity when dealing with the fans and media, these often-laughable behaviors only add to the list of examples of questionable decision-making that has negatively impacted his legacy up to this point. Then again, maybe Michael Jordan was just lucky that his career pre-dated social media.

The Big Picture

With all of that said, there is no question that Kevin Durant is one of the greatest players of his generation. He has consistently been a top-five player in the league and is arguably the greatest scorer of his era. His career averages of 27.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game will make him a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

In terms of players of his generation (the late 20-oughts through the present), Durant is very high on the list. However, he sits well behind Lebron James and just behind his former teammate Steph Curry. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who single-handedly led the Milwaukee Bucks back from obscurity, has likely surpassed Durant in terms of legacy at this point. An argument could be made that Kawhi Leonard has done more to be considered an all-time great, winning titles with two franchises. However, it seems a safe move to call Durant a top-five player of the current era.

However, many players were among the best of their generation but are nowhere near the top of the list of all-time greats. Dominic Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, and Alex English are all great players and superstars of their eras but will never be discussed in the conversation for NBA GOAT. Durant currently finds himself in this category.

That said, what makes Kevin Durant a bit more disappointing than those other examples, is that he has the unbelievable talent to be so much more. It is only the intangibles he has lacked up to this point in his career. His leadership and mental and emotional strength have just never matched up with his physical gifts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a legend of your era, an all-time great scorer, and a future NBA Hall of Famer. He has two rings to show for his trouble. Should Durant have a few more highly productive years in this league, he will likely be remembered somewhere around a top 15-20 NBA player. A great accomplishment for sure, but had he done things a bit differently, could he have found himself in the GOAT conversation?

Let us know in the comments where you rank Kevin Durant in terms of all-time NBA greats.

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