Article by Nathaniel Dedman & Daniel Caccamo
The NBA’s Most Valuable Player award isn’t only a time for the world to officially recognise the league’s best player, it’s also a time for the league MVP to reflect on their journey so far. If you’re like me and you’ve just finished watching Kevin Durant accept his Maurice Podoloff trophy then I’m sure you would have shed a tear or two.
Durant was a humble as ever, putting the credit on his coaches, teammates and lastly a genuinely beautiful thankyou to his mother which left everyone either in applause or tears. For me, it was the latter. The way Durant showcased the hard work and dedication that his mother, Wanda Pratt, had done giving birth to his brother at 18 years of age and him, three years later was just amazing.
“One my best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture, we all just sat in the living room and just hugged each other. We thought we made it. … You wake me up in the middle of the night in the summertime, making me run up a hill, making me do push-ups. Screaming at me from the sidelines of my games at eight or nine years old … When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.” – Kevin Durant
It’s not too often that the love for your franchise player goes to another level. But with Kevin Durant, the feeling Oklahoma has for him has surely doubled. The man we call “Kid Clutch” no longer has the tag of being number two in the league. He’s now the league MVP and joins an elite class of players with surnames such as Jordan, Johnson, James, Chamberlain and Russell. Such a class that every player dreams of joining, but most never make.
This season has been an interesting one for Kevin. He’s been thrown into the deep end and thrived in the absence of Westbrook dropping points like there’s no tomorrow, he’s been trashed by the media for not playing D, he’s been called selfish and most recently he’s been crtisised for not taking responsibility of his team during the Playoffs in terms of performance. But you know what, at the end of the day Kevin Durant is the league MVP and nothing that anyone can ever say will take away that honour from him.
As a Thunder fan myself, I’m well aware of what KD brings to our team. His scoring is obvious but his leadership and ever improving patience coupled with his desire to win makes him one of only two perfect franchise players – the other being close friend LeBron James. However outside of the Oklahoma City fan base the professional respect of rival fans is also growing and their realisation of his prowess is reaching new heights. So not only am I, as a Thunder fan, writing about why Kevin Durant was undoubtedly the league MVP this season but Chicago Bulls fanatic Daniel Caccamo will share his thoughts on what an opposition fan see’s in a player like Durant. Daniel, being a Bulls fan, is the perfect writer to share this piece with having seen the highs of Derrick Rose win his own MVP trophy and then realising just how important he is after the electric Point Guard was struck down by “that” ACL injury. Rose would then miss, and is continuing to miss serious amounts of basketball which just continually brings to the forefront how much a player of a Rose or Durant calibre means.
“I come from a small county outside Washington D.C., called PG County. Me, my mom and my brother moved so many different places growing up. It felt like a box, it felt like there was no getting out. My dream was to become a rec league coach. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to stay home and help the kids out.” – Kevin Durant
ON HIS OWN LEVEL THIS SEASON
Nathaniel Dedman – This season Kevin Durant took his game beyond anything we’ve seen from the former Texas Longhorn before. He scored, he rebounded and he assisted while also being the undoubted leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder. As a fan, it was simply wonderful to watch but it also left me wondering. How much more dangerous would Durant be in an up-tempo system where more was done to get him in his spots. The answer to that is unknown, but I’m guessing it would be pretty darn dangerous.
This season Durant took his points and assists to a new level adding almost two baskets and one more assist per game. But what was most impressive was his ability to come back night in and out for 81 games this season playing at a high level and staying fresh. With Westbrook recovering from more procedures on his previously injured knee and Scott Brooks trying to blood young stars like Steven Adams and Andre Roberson into the line-up, a consistent Durant became even more vital.
His leadership this season also took another leap forward. In the past, many have questioned who actually is the leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But this campaign it was obvious that Durant wanted that responsibility. He wanted to shoulder the blame if there was a loss, and he wanted to be the go to guy if the game needed to be won. He took that city on his back and carried them to where they are now. That, to me was the greatest thing Kevin did this season. He shut the haters up and made this team his while sharing the credit with each and every member of the game day group.
“I know you guys think I forgot Russ. I can speak all night about Russell. An emotional guy who will run through a wall for me. I don’t take him for granted. There’s days I just want to tackle you and tell you to snap out of it sometimes, but I know there are days that you want to do the same to me. I love you, man, I love you. A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player. I’m the first to have your back through it all. Stay the person you are, everybody loves you here. I love you. … You’re an MVP caliber player, it’s a blessing to play with you.” – Kevin Durant on Westbrook
FROM OUTSIDE THE CITY
Daniel Caccamo – It is official, Kevin Durant is the NBA’s MVP after an excellent season and no matter what part of the world you come from, it was obvious Durant was head and shoulders above everyone else in the NBA. Durant finished the season as the leading scorer of the league with 32 PPG to along with 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG. Supporting a team like the Chicago Bulls, a team in dire need of a scoring and playmaking SF, seeing the success of KD is only something I can hope one day will be produced by a future Bull – sorry Mike Dunleavy you aren’t quiet there yet!
Durant took the next step as a player this season and the way (at times) he put the Thunder on his back and lifted HIS team to win after win was something special – extremely similar to the way LeBron James played when he was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It is clear just how dominant of an offensive player Durant is, not just this season but for his whole career. Durant will come in have the game played on his terms. Durant says;
“I’ve seen every type of defense. I’ve seen every type of defensive player, so nothing is new to me. You can be physical with me, foul me. You can push me out. You can do whatever. I’m still going to play my game.”
That there is what NBA fans like to see, a level of self confidence in his style of play, regardless of what the opposition throws at him – this is why Durant has become the leagues MVP. We all knew Durant could dominate on the offensive side of the ball, but the difference for me was the way he handled himself of the defensive end this year. Slowly but surely Durant has transformed himself into the most elite two-way player in the league, who is capable of using his length and athleticism to cause his opponent some real problems on that side of the ball. It looks like having elite defenders on the team such as Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are all having a positive effect on KD and turning him into one of the more scarier defensive players in the league.
Whilst I don’t have the pleasure of watching KD night in and night out, it has become obvious that he has taken the next step as a player. KD is no longer a scorer, KD is now our MVP and one of the best players of our generation.
BACK TO WHERE WE BELONG
Nathaniel Dedman – I can only assume what Kevin Durant wants in life but from an outside eye he appears to have almost everything. A loving and caring mother, a city who loves him, successful ventures and deals, a loving partner in Lynx star (and soon to be Dandenong Ranger, again) Monica Wright, the Rookie of The Year Award, 4 scoring titles, an All-Star MVP, Olympic Gold and now his NBA MVP. The only two things absent, are an NBA Championship and Finals MVP, which you can bet your bottom dollar Kevin craves for. Maybe not so much the Finals MVP being the humble guy he is but he certainly yearns and works for that Championship ring on his finger and a banner in the rafters.
Two campaigns ago, the young core of Durant, Westbrook and Harden took Oklahoma into the Finals against the red hot favourite Miami Heat. While things didn’t go the way I, or anyone in the Thunder’s corner had hoped, it did give us a craving for a return trip to the Finals. Last season once again we looked the goods until Patrick Beverly and Westbrook collided causing the Thunder’s star PG to end his season. Durant did his best, which was a monster effort but OKC would fall in the second round to Memphis. This season has been another tough trip so far with a 7 game full on war against the Grizzlies allowing us to move onto the stacked and hungry LA Clippers. With the West by far the tougher conference, Durant and the Thunder have a certain fight on their hands each and every game. The good thing about Kevin is, its championship or nothing for him. His drive and will doesn’t accept second best.
Now officially known as the league MVP, Durant will be looking to deliver the city back to the Finals. And I have no doubt he can, absolutely no doubt at all. Not only will it give him everything he wants but it will also shut every single hater up and avoid the drama that surrounded LeBron before he captured the ultimate glory with the Miami Heat.
“I know there’s days you look at that film and want to kill me. Not playing defense, taking bad shots, getting too many techs. But you always believe that I can be the guy, through the tough times, you guys never left my side.” – Kevin Durant on the Thunder Coaches
WHAT IS THE LIMIT
Daniel Caccamo – One word – Limitless. What KD can achieve in this league is only controlled by how far he wants to go. Durant has all the tools to become the best player in the league for the next 5-10 years – after all he has achieved it is easy to forget he is only 25 years old.
What more can a 4 time scoring champion do on the offensive end? Efficiency? Check. Deep range? Check. Finishes around the hoop? Check. He can score at will, when he wants and how he wants and no one (Tony Allen?) can stop him. The only thing I could say KD could add to his offensive game, is an improved post game – and then I remember that he has one of the best go-to post moves in the game
Kevin Durant is the closest thing we have to MJ in terms of his scoring ability and the scary thing is that KD is nowhere near reaching his prime. Watch out NBA.
On the defensive side of things, KD has improved every season he has been in the league and there is no reason to expect this to change any time soon. With his unique combination of size, strength and athleticism many players now fear coming up against Durant because of his ability to be a shut down defender. Earlier on in his career this was not the case, players could score at will against Durant and it is extremely promising to see the development he has made on the defensive side of the ball. Defense is as much about effort as it is anything else and the increased effort KD has put into defense is clear to see and is the key for him taking his game to the next level.
Like I said before, limitless is the perfect word to describe what KD can achieve individually and with his team for the rest of his NBA career. He is a special talent, who after 6 years in the league, is looking like one of the most complete players in the NBA. KD is unstoppable at the moment and with plenty of things left for him to perfect and work at there is no telling how good KD can be.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR OKLAHOMA AND DURANT
Nathaniel Dedman – This is Durant’s first league MVP and being on 25 years of age, you can assume there will be another one or two added to the trophy cabinet. But then again, Kobe only was awarded the trophy once so who knows!
The Thunder as a whole are in a little bit of a funny situation. They have three undoubted premier players at their respected positions and a super sixth man in Reggie Jackson but beyond that is a little uncertainty. Scott Brooks is a loyal guy and has stuck with Perkins and Sefolosha for a while now which has been brilliant for the balance on the floor. However with the Harden trade netting us you talent in Lamb and Adams you sometimes wonder how happy they are with their playing time.
All of the tools are there for a five or more year period of Finals dominance but the continued development of the younger brigade is vital. It’s a known fact that playing with Durant makes players better so it will be interesting to see if Brooks looks to play them with KD a little more to further their development. That’s another great thing about our MVP – he makes others better!
The sky really is the limit for Durant and the Thunder. With a young core the team can do extraordinary things but Durant as a person, it’s just mouth-watering. With his length and ever improving game it’s foolish not to think we could be seeing a once in a generation player and when all is said and done Kevin Durant will stand tall as one of the very best. That should excite everyone, not only Thunder fans, but hoops lovers as a whole.
ONLY THE START
In closing this has only been the start of Kevin’s journey. From beating the odds and making it to the league, to shoving the lack of muscle jibes aside and becoming one of the most deadly players we have seen, to winning his MVP. This is only just the beginning of what will be a very successful next decade of Kevin Durant basketball.
Durant is a beast, and I love having him on the Thunder!