It is as inevitable as it is banal: everyone, everywhere will soon be telling you that Kevin Durant is on the rise. They will sing praises of his ascent to a higher level of performance, applaud his continued development, and pay tribute to his progress. One can read the ESPN headlines now: “Durant Rising,” “Durant and OKC, Growing Up,” or my personal favorite, “KD: A Budding Star.”
What is the problem with these headings? They all resonate with meaning, extolling admiration on one of the NBA’s fresh faces and speaking highly of his forthcoming elevation as a basketball idol. How could such contentions be wide of the mark when the log for his last 10 games looks as such:
It would seem that no basketball mind could look at these numbers, or his 47 points last night against New Orleans, or the 38 he put up on Sacramento last week, and not see a future All-Star and prospective great player. But therein lies the rub: the argument that Durant will someday become a great player is askew in its foundational claims.
Theories that purport that the Washington D.C. native will soon be in the league’s elite are meaningless because their hypothesis, that he is potentially set to break out, is faulty from its very underpinning. Kevin Durant is not a promising future talent, or a prospective superstar. He is already supernatural, and already a star of the highest order. There can be no promise, or prospect, or suggestion about it. His present greatness is implicit. It is not be debated, nor pondered. Watch him play and you see what already is, not what might be. You see existing excellence, not forthcoming possibility. No player had a bigger impact on last weekend’s All-Star festivities than Durant. His absence from Sunday’s main event became more and more glaring as the weekend progressed. That the second-year swingman and complete freak of an athlete was not selected as one of his conference’s best twelve players is an indictment of the process by which All-Stars are chosen, and a denunciation of any coaches who, for even half a second, would place more value in what David West has brought to New Orleans than what Durant has to the Thunder.
As if on a mission to avenge his honor and punish all comers, Durant took over the Rookie/Sophomore game with a superiority and quality above his peers that that particular contest has never seen. Though it may only have been a meaningless exhibition, Durant played with a fire, a focus that showed him to be a star whose magnitude should never have been confined to a happening as small as this in the first place. 46 points and countless highlights later, he had proven his point by means of a record performance. As if only to emphasize the idiocy that was his All-Star snub, he also took to winning the NBA’s inaugural H-O-R-S-E challenge. In doing so he beat back (future All-Star) O.J. Mayo and (current All-Star) Joe Johnson. As already alluded to, he chose to follow the weekend with a career-high 47 points on Tuesday (featuring a fading three from the wing in the game’s dying seconds) just to drive home the point.
What is important to focus on is not that Durant excelled in Phoenix, or to promote his achievements there as a sort of coming-out party for him to the rest of the league. The crucial thing to realize is this: the rest of the league needed no such notice. They have understood for some time now this young man’s abilities and his faculty for greatness. The scariest thing, of course, is that he merely continues to excel. Consider his splits, on a month-to-month basis, this season:
The message here is that you should believe the rush of Durant stories that are about to hit in earnest when they suggest he will challenge for MVP someday. You should believe them when they write how his scoring jumped nearly five points a night, and his rebounding increased by nearly four a game, when he moved from guard to forward. You should take note when they say he is a potential rival for LeBron for the next decade. You should even believe them when they proclaim him a future all-time talent. Just don’t believe them that he is potential All-Star “on the rise.” He is that, and more, already, even if you (and the coaches) haven’t come to see it yet.