From Shooter to Legend
He is the face of an organization. Around the country, he is one of the most universally loved star athletes. He has talent surrounding him all over the court and these guys love playing with him. He loves the small market and has committed to being with this team going forward. He is a three time scoring champion. He is 23 years old and poised to be a legend. Kevin Durant, leading the Miami Heat 1-0 in the 2012 NBA Finals, has reached the pinnacle of accomplishments for someone that six years ago was graduating high school. It is everything LeBron James thought he was going to have…and right now, he has a front row seat for it.
I know, I know. It is one game. LeBron is the three time MVP not KD. The thing is, right now it doesn’t matter. Two summers ago, these two amazing athletes’ paths changed forever. LeBron made “The Decision.” Kevin Durant on the other hand, quietly signed a long extension with the Thunder that was announced via Twitter. On July 8, 2010 LeBron James was no longer a part of a small market team that was cheered for by all of sports fandom. It set the stage for Kevin Durant to claim the role of hero while LeBron became sports’ number one villain.
Over the past two years, these roles have played out and have been in full effect during these playoffs. We now see TV personalities like the obnoxious Skip Bayless constantly judging every aspect of James’ life. Kevin Durant can do no wrong. Hell, I’m sitting here writing this while listening to Stephen A. Smith proclaim KD is the second coming of the “IceMan.” He is the country’s most lovable momma’s boy; and he does it in a state that hosted their first major professional championship game just last night. He is doing it with a talented group of young stars, built through the draft, with an average of 25. All this means is Kevin Durant better get use to this.
So far, he has been more than ready. There has never been any doubt in this playoffs that Kevin Durant will step up in the 4th quarter. He is thriving on the brightest stage. Durant put up 17 of his 36 total points in the 4th quarter of Game 1 last night. He has hit big last minute shots in each series of their path through the Western Conference. At 23, the 6’9″ 235 pound Washington, D.C. native is rising to the occasion on the biggest stage.
This story, unfolding this June, should not be a knock on LeBron James. LeBron is still the best all-around player in the world right now. However, I question more and more if he should be your first pick to start a franchise. It is unfortunate, but LeBron hasn’t made all the right moves in his career. I’m talking about off the court career moves, here. It hasn’t affected his playing ability but it is affecting his legacy. In the mean time, Kevin Durant is sliding into the role everyone thought LeBron was going to fill. Durant is quickly becoming the face of the NBA and well-deserved with his character on and off the court. The elite, lanky scorer has become an elite, NBA superstar.
This series is far from over. I can easily see the Heat taking this series. They still have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh so in no way are they outmatched. However, the story is already being written. People want a superstar that they can just enjoy watching. I know I would much rather hear analysis of how KD can get his shot off anyone, rather than Skip’s suggestion that LeBron must be seeing a sports psychologist. They want a superstar that can leave them with playoff memories of game winning shots to propel their team to huge playoff wins. Kevin Durant is what the casual fan loves and he isn’t letting people down. The shooter is molding a legacy, and everyone is watching.