Kevin Durant is really good and started his career in the mid-2000s.
That means, to a segment of fans, he’s living in the shadow of Michael Jordan and/or Kobe Bryant.
No other context matters. There are people who will do nothing but nitpick how well someone compares to Jordan and/or Kobe (depending on the fans’ allegiances).
One of the most annoying is claiming someone lacks a killer instinct on par with those great shooting guards. Never mind that nobody ever defines exactly what killer instinct means. They just know nobody but Jordan and/or Kobe holds up.
Durant has received that criticism – and it rightfully bugs him.
Durant, via Sam Amick of USA Today:
“What I heard was that people would talk about me and say that I don’t have that killer dog in me, like a Kobe (Bryant) or — who else? — like Mike (Jordan), and those guys have,” he continues. “But I’m like, ‘I wouldn’t be able to survive this long in this league doing the stuff that I do at an elite level (if he didn’t have it). I wouldn’t be able to do it for seven straight years if I didn’t have that it,you know?’
“And sometimes that may not equate to wins, or championships every year. (But) I feel as though I’m always consistent with what I do. I put in the work. And being the best player (in the NBA) is (now) a conversation. If you go out today and say, ‘KD is the best player in the world,’ that’s a conversation. That’s not the tell-all, be-all. So when people say, ‘Oh, he might have been MVP, but he’s not the best player in the world.’ Well, I can argue it. We can all argue it.”
Durant can be too passive. Sometimes, he doesn’t move hard enough without the ball to get it late.
He scores better than any of his teammates. Occasionally, he needs a reminder that what looks like a bad shot for him is better than what looks like a good shot for someone else.
But I’ll take Durant at the end of a game over any current player save maybe LeBron James.
That’s because Durant and LeBron are neck-and-neck for being the NBA’s top player. For the most part, clutch play is romanticized confirmation bias. Samples are too small to draw any conclusions. Give me the guy who excels all game, and I’ll take my chances with him in the closing moments.
But if you do believe in the significance of crunch time, Durant led led the NBA last season in points during the last five minutes when the scoring margin was within five points. In 2012-13, he was second to Kobe. In 2011-12, he was first to Kobe’s second.
Durant never claimed to be ahead of Kobe or Jordan in this department, just as that he’s on their level. And, yes, he and Kobe belong in the same range. I’d argue Jordan possessed a fierce “killer dog” within him, but there’s no shame in Durant falling short of Jordan. Durant’s ability to take over a game is nothing to be ashamed of. Not even close.