I think I should let the record show that I have an extreme bias towards players I have watched in person. Can't help it. There's some sort of emotional attachment that happens when you're actually in a stadium/arena/field/ballpark that gives you a completely different outlook on players.
Its easy to tell who I have a "Seen-in-person" bias for. Dirk, A-Rod, Josh Hamilton,
Each of those athletes I have seen in person and can recount a specific moment that made me think "Wow, I love everything about this guy." (ex. LeBron: Seeing him during his rookie season, stealing the ball from Michael Finely before rising on the other end with his now trademark one-handed tom-a-hawk. It was like the first time I heard The Beatles.)
So there's one name I left out on that list. His name is Kevin Durant. And he is the future of the NBA.
What was most amazing to me, watching him live and in person (from decent seats) was how easy it was. It was so fluid. Coming off down-screens. Posting up. Spot up in transition. Face up from the wing. It was like he was playing against high schoolers. What's even more surprising was how, well, unspectacular it was. Watching him, it didn't feel like the John Wall freak show we have now-a-days. There was a buzz in the arena, no question, but his on court savvy just oozed professionalism. It was like he was saying "Hey, I've been here before. Even though I haven't. That might not make sense to you mere mortals, but don't worry. I know I'll be there and this is how it feels."
I left Oklahoma that night thinking "This guy isn't better than LeBron. He's just too different. He can score. And he's so good at it"
(Durant vs LeBron arguments are a joke just to get it out there. They are both completely different players with different abilities. It's like comparing Dirk to Tim Duncan. They are both great, one not better than the other in terms of basketball ability, but since they do it differently from each other we have to assume one is better. They're not. They're both great.)
The progression has been steady. After his rookie season, some even wondered "whats the big deal?" Sure his numbers don't pop out at you. 20.3 a game, 43% shooting, 28% 3PT shooting and only grabbing about 4 rebounds a game. Big deal. We saw LeBron and Carmello do that. And we've seen other rookies do even better.
But consider he didn't have a point guard (Westbrook came next year) had a team full of expiring vets and rookie scraps. Also he switched positions about 57 times. He went from shooting guard to small forward to power forward to back to guard. It was a rough transition.
The next two years tell the story. He averaged 25 a game last year raising his shooting percentages and rebounding numbers and free throw attempts. And now he's on the cusp of being the youngest player ever to average 30 a game. Eat your heart out MJ/LeBron.
Consider how filthy good Durant has been since December: He's gotten to the line over 10 times a game while shooting over 50 percent. In January he shot 53 percent...from three. Oh and also in January he got to the line 11.1 times a game. So he's doing it from everywhere. There's no place on the court Durant doesn't feel comfortable. The kid also hasn't had a game under 25 points since December 19th. To take it back farther, he's only had 5 games under 25 points since the beginning of November.
Oh and he's been scoring at a 30 ppg. clip since December, if you couldn't connect the dots.
Oh and one more thing. Now he's learning how to win. Scary. He's taken a 23 win team from last year to 30 and right in the playoff chase. He's raised the level of play from Jeff Green and Russel Westbrook. Follow Durant on twitter. He's constantly updating the world about hangin' with Green or going to a movie with Westbrook. These guys love each other. Much props to coach Scott Brooks, but again, Durant is the cornerstone.
attacked the kids in the kitchen or the scene where they killed that Aussie hunter. "Oh shit they can open doors" really means "Oh shit, he can get to the line at will."
Durant will only continue to grow. He hasn't hit the age 25/26 prime yet. He's got two more seasons before that. He's got the Nike shoe deal and now the All-Star gig this weekend. Prepare people. The Durantula is on the loose.
And we are all so fortuntate to watch.