Durant’s beautiful mirages

I like Kevin Durant because it’s impossible not to. His image is one of understated charisma and Beckley told me to believe the hype. Durant is for real. You really do come away liking him. He really does look you square in the eye and project a laser glare of incandescent respectful decency. There is a magnetism to his quiet magnanimity, and it’s drawing new coverts by the day. 

So if Kevin Durant is overrated, it’s for the best possible reasons: Because he’s genuinely nice, cool, committed to his craft, and captivatingly so. The world isn’t such a bad place if this is what causes someone to get a little too much renown.

But I’m here to wet blanket the recent buzz, less as an attack dog and more as an awed observer of how one man can spawn a cult of personality in two consecutive summers.

Oh, you don’t remember the last Summer of Durant? Way back in 2010, KD presaged a supposed league takeover by showing Turkish players what for. Back then, many observers shaped his excellent performance against (mostly) non-NBA talent into a story about a man conquering more than just Ersan Ilyasova. Kevin had evolved. He had learned how to win, how to lead and how to marry kind humility with the blood-lusty killer instinct of a depraved assassin warrior patriot. Obviously, putting ball-through-hoop on the world stage equalled a personality transformation that would propel him to better put ball-through-hoop at home.

Well, Durant went into 2010-2011 with the MVP as his to lose and promptly…lost it. It was not that Kevin played poorly. Far from it, a PER of nearly 24 does an All Star do. It’s just that his season made the summer look like a mirage (it was). It’s just that NBA players seen through the lens of D-League opposition may seem more improved than reality would confess.

Another year and it’s the same story–but not quite. Kevin Durant has gone from winning far flung not-NBA-games, to dominating grass roots not-NBA-games. And again, it’s helping to foment “best future player” talk.

I draw no predictions about what these summer adventures mean for Durant’s future. My guess is that KD’s tendency to eviscerate the non-NBA speaks to how an awesome one-dimensional ability can thrive unhindered below the NBA strata. It helps that Durant is best at scoring, which is a fan’s fixation.

Think about it this way. KD struggles to create his own shot, relative to other superstars. He still manages to lead the league in scoring on mostly assisted jumpers. While some score easily on layups and dunks, he rakes in points by lofting difficult attempts over the best defenses. Durant somehow fills it up while only averaging 3.6 shots at the rim (73rd in the league).

So when the game comes easier–as it does in these summer days–he’s Harrison Bergeron unbound. Kevin’s one dimension is absolutely crushing when it faces no rebuttal. Durant’s shaky handle and lack of court vision mean nothing when his scoring brilliance is free to flex and shout.

KD’s inability to create should hold him back from becoming the league’s most effective player, though. I hope I’m wrong, because Durant is so fun to root for. But it’s a bit odd to predict “best” for a wing who has never tallied more assists than turnovers through four years in the league. “Consistently great” seems like a more realistic expectation.

In the meantime, Kevin Durant is creating a groundswell of enthusiasm, divorced from NBA context, divorced from an operating NBA.
Digressive note: “I hope I’m wrong, because Durant is so fun to root for,” is a blatant lie designed to make me look reasonable and not at all anti-Durant. I strive to be honest, but my reflex to disabuse readers of the notion that I’m a “hater” sadly often turns me into a liar.

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Related posts:

  1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Halftime Show
  2. Kevin Durant: right at home in the Goodman League


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