The NBA has seen the greats before. The Michael Jordans and the Larry Birds all the way to the Kobe Bryants and Wilt Chamberlains. The Association has seen some of the best scorers drill shots with ease while making it look effortless. Jordan’s game was revolutionary while Chamberlain simply couldn’t be stopped. Bird still garners compliments as the best shooter to ever walk the hardwood while basketball browsers still celebrate Chamberlain’s 100-point game. But despite the names the prestige and the accolades of past NBA players, has there ever been a scorer like Kevin Durant? Hovering near the seven-foot mark and armed with handles, a jumper and smooth athleticism, Durant’s full arsenal has been on full display this season as the 25-year-old has been shouldering the NBA-leading Oklahoma City Thunder while going on a scoring binge. Whether it’s from deep or midrange; a dunk or a free throw, Durant is purely the NBA’s top scorer. But is he the most effective scorer to ever play the game? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: I grew up on Jordan, watching him dissect and dismantle various oppositions along the way to six titles but when it comes to pure scoring, I’ve never seen anything like Durant. His length makes him an automatic problem, as you won’t find many, if any, small forwards 6-foot-10 or better. His three-point shooting requires a constant hand in his face and his midrange game is second to none. He shoots 90 percent from the stripe and can dunk, dribble and drive with the best of them. He’s been passing more this year despite all the acclaim for his scoring but it all adds up to make him the NBA’s best scorer ever. He’s the ultimate matchup problem and there’s never been another like him. He hasn’t even sniffed the ability to post up smaller players but from where his offensive repertoire is now, when you add in his height and length, he has to be the most effective scorer to ever play the game.
Green: Durant’s obviously a fantastic player. I think he’s the best player in the world and I’ve felt that way since the lockout summer of 2011. But elevating him over Jordan, or even Kobe Bryant, as a scorer, is just going too far. KD is unstoppable scoring, we all know that. But are we forgetting that it was the Black Mamba who scored 82 points in a game? Durant’s career high is 56. Are we forgetting that it was MJ who made scoring 50-plus points in a game look easy? Durant has scored 50 or more just twice while MJ has scored 50 or more points nearly 40 times throughout his career. Durant is easily on his way to his 4th scoring title. That’s very nice. He still has a long way to go before he catches Jordan’s 10 scoring titles. I think you get the picture.
Riley: I think you have to leave the scoring titles and records out of this. If we’re talking pound-for-pound talent then it has to be Durant. He’s giving you Larry Bird-like shooting with a George Gervin-stye finesse mixed with athleticism. I would put his ball-handling skills already on par with, if not above, Jordan; Durant can shake you off with a quick handle or two and his crossovers are too smooth to be a 6-foot-10-inch player. Not to mention his shooting ability ranges from pretty much anywhere across the half-court line. He is simply a deadly scorer from anywhere on the court.
Jordan wasn’t nailing three’s at Durant’s rate and Jordan was never the half-court player that Durant is now until Jordan was already five to seven years deep in his career.
From where Durant’s game is now at his current age, he’s going to go down as the best scorer in the league when it’s all said and done. There’s nothing and nobody who can match up with him. We parade LeBron James around as this all everything defender and Durant just shredded him a few nights ago. A scout would be hard-pressed to simply find a defender with Durant’s length and agility because when you get to be that tall and lanky you’re simply not supposed to do the things he can do.
Green: Sure, KD embarrassed LeBron the other day. Well, I can name another player who does that to the King every time he faces him, too: Carmelo Anthony. I still believe Carmelo is just as great a scorer, if not better than Durant. Melo can shoot just as well, and he has a larger frame so he can bang with the big boys down low. That’s something Durant can’t do with his skinny frame.
Melo and KD will battle for the scoring title for the rest of their careers, and they’ll both probably end up in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame because of their amazing scoring abilities. But I don’t think neither one will ever pull off the magical scoring performances that Jordan did. The only person who comes close is Kobe.