Kevin Durant is one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen. The superstar is a 2-time champion, 2-time finals MVP, 4-time scoring champion, and League MVP in 2014. He also won the Rookie of the Year award in 2008. He has proved that he is a top 20 ( top 10 in many people’s eyes) player ever. The question is does his legacy compare to those of all-time greats like LeBron, Kobe, and Michael Jordan. With the mess in Brooklyn and a clear lack of leadership from Kevin Durant, the answer is no.
KD was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics who later became the Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) and spent 9 seasons there. He had Russell Westbrook and James Harden as his teammates. He did not win a championship there. To be fair, OKC was Russell Westbrook’s team. He was the leader and KD acquiesced to his decisions. Westbrook was extremely ball-dominant and it was a topic of discussion in the media of how good OKC could be if KD could take more shots and have the ball more.
Despite those issues KD proved to be an extremely efficient scorer and was a scoring machine, putting the ball in the basket the majority of the times he got a chance. He was the scoring champion 4 times, tying Allen Iverson and George Gervin for the 3rd most scoring titles in NBA history. What is even more impressive is that ever since he won his last scoring title, Durant has never shot below 50%. Despite his great skill and offensive versatility, he just couldn’t get over the hump and win a championship.
On July 7th, 2016, Kevin Durant made one of the most debated and shocking moves in NBA history, where he signed with the Golden State Warriors, a team that had won a championship in 2015 and was considered one of the best offences the league had ever seen. Add on KD to that team and this became one of the greatest teams in NBA history. He was harshly criticized and Stephen A Smith, a prominent member of the American sports media said that this was one of the weakest moves by a superstar he had ever seen.
It is well known that winning solves all problems. Despite the criticism, the Warriors went on to win back-to-back championships and Durant was the Finals MVP both times. He finally got over the hump and could call himself a champion. Many crowned Durant the best player in the world after that. He had beat LeBron James in back-to-back finals and was finals MVP. Of course, he was on the better team but he was also the best player on that team.
In the 2018-2019 season, the superstar was going to be a free agent at the end of the season and there was a lot of talk about what his decision would be. In the middle of the season, there was a huge spat between him and Warriors forward Draymond Green, where the 2 players were arguing on the sidelines during a game. The issue started with Draymond not passing the ball to KD and eventually turning the ball over in the end. The superstar eventually had an Achilles tear and could not play in the NBA finals that year. The Warriors lost to the raptors in that series and the Toronto Raptors were crowned champions for the first time in franchise history.
In the end, Durant decided to leave the warriors. He said that the issue with Draymond was a part of it but he might have also wanted to win a championship as the leader of the team. While Durant was the best player on the warriors, Steph and Draymond were the leaders on that team. In fact that made it all the more easier for KD to play, as the only thing he needed to worry about was going out on the court and playing at a high level. The rest of it was taken care of by Draymond and Steph.
KD ended up signing with the Brooklyn Nets and teamed with Kyrie Irving who had also left the Boston Celtics after failing to lead them to a championship. This was the perfect opportunity for KD to prove that he deserved to be discussed along with the upper echelon of basketball legends. He had a very good team around him, a superstar talent like Kyrie and it was his team. What he said was final and he was the leader of the group. If he could prove that he was a great leader as well, then he would definitely be in the discussion with a player like LeBron.
When KD came back after his Achilles injury, the nets were considered contenders for the championship. When they added James Harden to the team in the middle of the season, they were considered favourites to win it all. Long story short, they didn’t win the championship. Harden was out due to a hamstring injury which was a result of him being overweight after trying to force his way out of Houston. Following that Kyrie injured himself against the bucks and KD had a toe on the 3 point line in Game 7 which the Bucks ended up winning.
This season was supposed to be redemption for the Big 3. They brought in pieces like Patty Mills and were once again considered favourites to win it all. But that was when things began going wrong. The city of New York set COVID mandates that would not let unvaccinated players play in the city. Kyrie Irving refused to take the vaccine and the Nets said that they would not employ him as a part-time player.
This was when KD was actually challenged as a leader. He had to keep the team focused and make sure the distractions that Kyrie was causing did not cause issues in the locker room. He also had to deal with Kyrie and convince him to make sacrifices for the team for them to achieve their goal. He failed, to say the least. KD did what KD does. He went out on the court and performed at a high level. He led the Nets to the top seed in the east and was the favourite for MVP throughout the season.
What he did not foresee was how his teammates were feeling about the Kyrie situation and how it was unfair to all of them, that their chances to win it all were being jeopardized because of one individual. When KD got injured is when things really took a bad turn. The Nets started losing games and the Nets brought back Kyrie as a part-time player. While nothing was said publicly, it definitely did not sit right with most players and the person that was getting frustrated at this point was James Harden.
James Harden started off the season struggling due to the new foul rules that did not allow him to exploit them as much as he used to. But he was slowly adjusting and getting back to the James Harden that we all knew he could be. On Christmas day, against the Lakers, Harden had a 36 point triple-double and led the nets to a win without KD or Kyrie. He also put up a similar performance against the clippers a few days later with a 39 point, 15 assist game.
But after Durant got injured, harden started to put up mediocre performances. One of the worst performances of his career came against the kings when he put up just 4 points in 37 minutes. It was clear then that Harden was going back to what he did in Houston and that he did not want to play in Brooklyn anymore. KD was once again challenged as a leader and had to convince harden to stay. He failed at that and the blockbuster trade between the Nets and the 76ers took place where Harden and Paul Millsap were traded to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and 2 first-round picks.
While the trade isn’t a loss for Brooklyn, it isn’t wrong to say that KD hasn’t been the leader he was supposed to be and if he cannot lead the Nets to a championship in the next few years, it will definitely be a smirch on his legacy. He will not be able to talk about himself being on the same level as greats like Kobe, LeBron, and Jordan and will be remembered as the superstar that could not lead a super team to a championship. The only way KD can elevate his legacy at this point is to win a championship this year. To win it with a Ben Simmons that breaks under pressure and coming off an MCL injury might just be the thing his legacy needs.