Football and basketball are never to be mixed. You can like one or the other or even both, but you never, I repeat, never blend the two. So sports enthusiasts who found themselves preoccupied with a weekend slate of gridiron games probably missed out on Team USA’s romp to a gold medal—what a shame. Led mostly by Kevin Durant (the new face of the NBA; yes, you read it right), America captured its first world basketball championship since 1994 in an 81-64 win over Turkey on Sunday (you’re granted a free pass if you missed the game for football-related reasons).

Durant, a budding NBA phenom, was incredible in his world championship debut, dropping 28 points in the final game to cap a monster tournament. His 205 points set a FIBA World Championship record by an American player and his 22.8 points per game led the U.S. in scoring in the nine-game tourney. He singlehandedly matched Turkey from a three-point distance with seven of his own makes en route to being named tournament MVP. Unofficial reports also suggest he cured cancer and slowed global warming during his stay in Turkey.

Maybe the latter is a bit far-fetched but Durant’s three-week FIBA performance was nothing short of extraordinary. Labeled as the “B-Team” due to the absence of megastars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Team USA didn’t feature many big names. Even before this year’s tourney, Durant’s name had often eluded the elite circle of A-list ballers. But Durant’s run for the ages not only qualified the U.S. for a spot in the 2012 Olympics, but surely etched his name across any basketball banter concerning the best in the business.

Durant has used the past year to elevate himself to uncharted territory. You won’t find too many guys this good at his age (21), with this kind of mindset—the eye of the tiger, so to speak. Most 21-year-olds are busy mapping out cap and gown orders and storming through frat parties. Not Durant. He’s busy mapping out pick and pop strategies and storming through FIBA competition. Launching 13 three pointers in a championship game is more Kobe-like than it is LeBron-like. But Durant’s insane physical skill set is more LeBron-like than it is Kobe-like. It all adds up to one big problem and if you were able to catch any of it this past Sunday, you had to come away impressed.

But it’s no biggie if you missed it. Autumn Sundays in America are usually reserved for simple things like church, family and football. But if you were able to turn away during that one commercial break of the first full day of NFL hoopla, then you got to see it. You actually had a chance to see Kevin Durant, the new face of the NBA.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO