"We’ve got a ways to go here. So put away the anointing oil, okay?” - NFL Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Parcells
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
On April 9th, 2011 an article was written by yours truly stating, among other things, that Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant would follow in the footsteps of former NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady.
The statement, while bold, was Durant was one of the greatest SCORERS the game had ever seen, much like McGrady. Yet, the lack of totality in his game would prove to be his downfall in winning an NBA title, much like McGrady and other great scorers alike.
However, predications, injuries, and most of all playoff failures were used to distant the two from each other. In truth, there is no argument regarding Durant’s game. The slender forward is a scorer, and he is one of the greatest to ever do that. The OKC forward gets buckets at such a perceived ease, his misses are shocking.
To understand the similarities to T-Mac one must first acknowledge the differences. Durant is a much better shooter and rebounder, while T-Mac was a better facilitator, ball-handler and defender. Although, Durant patterned his game after McGrady he has managed to surpass the former NBA All-Star in playoff success. Even with that success KD still bears the look of other unstoppable scorers to play the game and never win a championship.
History has offered us a group of select players who are comparable to the unyielding type of scorer that Durant is.
The comparison to McGrady centered around the way each player dominated the league with their scoring prowess. The comparison also was meant to illustrate that great, or better yet magnificent, scorers almost never win titles.
The names of players who have won multiple scoring championships AND NBA Titles is scarce. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan, Bob McAdoo, and Shaquille O’Neal are the only members of this small fraternity.
Each of these players were dominant at other facets of the game. Some excelled on the defensive end while others in excelled in rebounding, regardless all brought something else to the table which cannot be said about Durant.
The man known as “the Durantula” has a skill set more reminiscent of other unstoppable scorers and, while we marveled at how potent their offensive game was we never held them accountable for their blatant deficiencies in other parts of the game.
For instance, former San Antonio Spurs’ legend George Gervin was the NBA’s first three-time scoring champion, whose game was purely scoring. One of the men who managed to win three straight scoring titles prior to Gervin was Wilt Chamberlain, who was a magnificent passer and rebounder.
There were three other players named McAdoo, Johnston, and Mikan, who won three straight scoring titles and all were dominant rebounders. In addition three of those four also won NBA titles in their careers.
Scoring became a major part of professional basketball when the ABA came on the scene. The ABA changed the way the game was played in the seventies and flash replaced substance. This paved the way for players like McAdoo and Gervin. Both players were unconquerable on the offensive end.
However, Gervin rarely impacted the game in any other way which is one of the reasons he never won an NBA title.
Conversely, McAdoo would sacrifice his individual talent later in his career and win two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. By doing so McAdoo confirmed he was a basketball player first and scorer second. The former Buffalo Brave provided the Lakers’ with much needed defense and rebounding off the bench in both title runs.
Durant, like Gervin, also averages more turnovers than assists for his career. However, to be fair Durant is a much better rebounder. Yet, it is there were the comparisons should commence. KD is more Gervin than Kobe. Just as the slender forward is more McGrady than Jordan. The Thunder forward’s ability to score in clutch moments is heralded while his propensity to give up bucket after bucket on the defensive end is disregarded.
This pattern is nothing new in the league and is actually quite familiar if you have followed the game.
76ers’ icon Allen Iverson is the only player since Michael Jordan to win three scoring titles, and to be clear the 76ers’ guard won four. However, Adrian Dantley, Alex English, Bernard King, George Gervin, and yes Tracy McGrady were all once in a lifetime scorers that had very little diversity in their game, much like Durant.
Where Kevin has managed to succeed is in the playoffs and that has fooled many into believing he is a complete player. The slender forward’s late game heroic’s has given credence to this notion he is something more than a scorer, which is not the case.
The 2012 NBA Playoffs have breathed new life into the NBA, by providing us with new faces to root for and root against. LeBron James has become the player to root against, and in the process people have ignored his overwhelming completion as a player. Fans have focused their attention on the misses and chosen ignorance when discussing the makes.
Meanwhile Durant has become the player to root for, and in the process people have disregarded just how one dimensional the forward is.
In 66 regular season starts the OKC scorer had just 16 double-doubles, he had just 16 games with 10 or more rebounds, and what was most telling were the 18 games with five or more assists. His defenders will say he is not a rebounder, yet with his 6’9 frame and with an almost a nine foot wingspan simply put he should be a better rebounder.
However, no one can defend his lack of assists or that he has habitually been a player who has more turnovers than assists.
It is these performances that initiated the McGrady discussion, because both players were just unstoppable offensively and that is where their games stopped. Unfortunately, the initial article failed miserably in explaining that, hopefully this one does not.
While history suggests KD should not have made it this far based on his heavily lopsided game. The forward has made it and should be commended for that. Time will tell if he is successful in this conquest, and time will tell if the comparison to McGrady in addition to other prolific scorers was justified.
The sheer dominance in which Durant scores is nothing short of captivating, as was the way McGrady, King, and Gervin scored. Durant’s 2012 playoff performance deserves applause, which he has received an abundance of.
Rarely does a player so one-sided, win a championship and rarely has one player’s flaws been so grossly ignored. Durant is one of the best scorer’s the game has ever seen, much like for a few years McGrady was. The two scored differently, but both were prolific and the NBA had not seen a scorer as prolific as Durant since McGrady.
Time has left many absent minded to just how remarkable a scorer McGrady was. Oddly enough that is usually how one-dimensional players are remembered. Their names are only evoked when that one facet is discussed, yet when they played people try to force them into the conversation of complete players.