Kevin Durant is a Tracy McGrady/Kevin Garnett cocktail. No, he's Dirk Nowitzki with a better hairdresser. Actually, he's a 6-foot-9 Michael...
Kevin Durant is a Tracy McGrady/Kevin Garnett cocktail.
No, he’s Dirk Nowitzki with a better hairdresser.
Actually, he’s a 6-foot-9 Michael Jordan.
The praise never stops. The comparisons get more creative by the day. We’d call it hyperbole, only there’s one problem: He’s that good.
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No wonder Durant is so quiet. Why talk when everybody else speaks so well for you?
“He is kind of a cross between George Gervin and Bob McAdoo,” says Lorenzo Romar, University of Washington basketball coach.
“Kevin Durant is a more athletic Danny Manning,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas says.
“He’s more of a big man than McGrady, a better shooter than Lamar Odom, more perimeter than Garnett,” ESPN.com columnist Pat Forde says. “Intriguing dude, obviously.”
Durant, who likely will become a Sonic on Thursday, is the most gushed-over NBA prospect since LeBron James. King James, Durant’s idol, entered the league four years ago with hype that only a few legends — Patrick Ewing, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson — can understand.
Durant isn’t quite on that level. Greg Oden figures to beat him out for the NBA draft’s No. 1 overall spot, but not even Oden inspires Durant-caliber reverence.
Oden is a big man with tons of subtle substance. He gets more respect than awe. Durant is a forward with a fascinating skill set. You figure there’s nothing he can’t do. Those types of players always charm us more.
Oden best fits the traditional model of team-building, but the story of a dominant big man gobbling up championships is a common tale. Durant makes us dream the grandest dreams.
He takes us to a land where versatility matters most, where the game flows better, where it regains its visual appeal.
Watching Jordan threepeat (twice) captured the nation’s imagination more than watching Shaquille O’Neal threepeat. Los Angeles Lakers fans let Kobe Bryant get away with his many mistakes because Bryant is basketball’s most enthralling talent.
Durant met with media members Sunday after a 45-minute audition for the Sonics. A reporter asked him to spread his arms to see his 7-foot-5 wingspan. He looks like he could stand at halfcourt and dunk on both rims at once.
The Sonics need this guy to be there at No. 2, even though Oden is a better fit. Team management should be praying Portland takes Oden.
As I’ve said previously in this space, the gap between these two players is small. So it’s not about talent. It’s about sizzle.
“Before the lottery, I thought the only team that should draft Durant over Oden at No. 1 was Seattle,” says Dan Wetzel, a Yahoo.com sports columnist. “If they’re ever going to build an arena, you have to have excitement. This guy will bring more excitement than any guy in the draft since LeBron. He’s mesmerizing to watch.”
He’s “Carmelo Anthony with a much deeper jump shot,” Wetzel says of Durant.
“A better Carmelo,” he adds. “Obviously, Carmelo is stronger than Durant, but the comparison is that they’re both too big for small forwards and too quick for power forwards.
“But Carmelo wasn’t as mean as Durant when he was a freshman.”
The competitiveness is what fuels the Jordan comparison. Off the court, Durant is a nice, respectful kid. On the court, he’s a beast.
“When I watch him, I see someone who gets lost in the game,” Romar says. “He doesn’t just try to get his points and go home. He wants to win badly. He’s diving on the floor, blocking shots, pulling down rebounds in traffic.”
As a Texas freshman, Durant averaged nearly two blocks and two steals a game to go with 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds. He joked that he came to college as a terrible defender and turned into a solid one.
He dreams of being a Tayshaun Prince-like defensive player as a pro. Durant understands he’s equipped with special talent. He wants to be the rare prodigy who exceeds his hype.
“A bigger Dr. J,” Portland assistant Maurice Lucas calls Durant.
Durant blushes when praised.
“It’s an honor for me to be mentioned like that,” Durant says. “I haven’t done anything yet. I haven’t put on an NBA jersey. I haven’t played an NBA game. I haven’t had an NBA practice. If I become that good, I’ll be happy with it.”
But here’s the thing: What if he’s not like any of these guys? What if he’s something different and more wonderful?
“There is no legit comparison for him,” says Jonathan Givony of Draftexpress.com. “He is going to change the way people think about the small forward/power forward position, much the way Dirk did the past two-three years and Garnett did before him. I’ve never evaluated a more talented player on tape in the five years I’ve been doing this.”
Introducing the incomparable Kevin Durant.