By Ron Leyba
There was little doubt before but Kevin Durant stamped himself among the NBA’s all-time greats by finally bringing home an MVP award for the 2013/14 season. That being said, whispers are starting to form about whether the 4-time scoring champ will ever win an NBA title. Sure Durant is still just 25 years of age but the upcoming season will be his 8th in the league with just one NBA Finals appearance to show for it. Those same critics were lambasting LeBron James for his lack of titles well before that same career arc and if Durant wants to be considered elite it’s time to put up rings or shut up.
What Does Durant Have Left to Prove
Kevin Durant has already proven quite a lot in his short professional basketball career. He’s an NBA MVP, a 5 time All-Star, the Rookie of the Year, a 4 time scoring champion, the 2010 FIBA Championship MVP, and an Olympic gold medalist just to scratch the surface. Even so, and Durant has a ways to go yet, it will seem all for naught without an NBA Finals trophy. There’s one thing that bunches all-time greats like Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone, and Allen Iverson together – they never won an NBA title. Durant can go on to win the next 5 consecutive scoring titles and MVP awards but they’ll all just serve as a microcosm about how he can’t win the big one.
Relationship With Westbrook
Durant and running mate Russell Westbrook have one of the most interesting relationships in all of sports. At some times they seem unified in conquering the same common goal, giving high-fives and immaculate passes to each other that make them look like the consummate teammates and friends. Other instances though the icy glare between the two can’t help but escape the watchful eye of the TV cameras and the relationship looks more like two quarterbacks fighting it out for the starting job in an NFL preseason. Durant and Westbrook will either have to learn to work together as they enter what should be their prime championship years together (26,27, 28 years old) or agree to cut ties and go their separate ways.
Overcoming the Western Conference
There could be a whole different tune to Durant’s career thus far if it weren’t for running into immovable forces in the Western Conference playoffs up until now. Granted he takes some onus on not being able to help the Thunder overcome the 2011 Mavericks or the 2014 Spurs in the Western Conference Finals but nobody was beating those teams that year. Even when OKC made the Finals in 2012 they faced Lebron James who was a man possessed in ending his own NBA championship drought. Has it been bad luck or bad intangibles thus far for Durant?
2016 Free Agency on Horizon
Durant is set to become one of the hottest commodities in the NBA when his contract expires in 2016. He’s beloved in Oklahoma City and has cemented himself as the face of the franchise for years to come. That can only go so far though and every man reaches his breaking point, even Durant who could be tempted to the Big Apple to become a savior to Madison Square Garden as the Knicks conveniently find themselves with cap space in that season. There’s really only one thing Durant can do to fight off that future urge – win now.