Will There Be A Kevin Durant Era?


I bought this shirt in 2010 from the lovely folks over at FreeDarko. It was created shortly after the All-Star Weekend in which Kevin Durant was the H-O-R-S-E champion over a very competitive Rajon Rondo.

The origin story for the shirt is interesting. The FreeDarko team placed KD on a milk carton because he was rarely seen or mentioned nationally following the All-Star break. The reason was that the Oklahoma City Thunder wasn't elected to be very good that year.

From then until now, a few impactful moments happened during Durant's career timeline. LeBron James became the best basketball player in the world. Durant became such an incredible runner-up that many argued his takeover of the Association would occur while LeBron was still sublime. He had a curse dropped on him, and more importantly, this past season, he sat with injuries while watching Russell Westbrook become "Wolverine" along with Steph Curry becoming the new baby face of the NBA, cementing his place by besting LeBron (and the rest of the Cavs) in last June's Finals.

While The Based God Curse is critical, the latter has more tangible reasons why Kevin Durant may not be atop the NBA like his game suggests he should.

This is not meant to say Durant is no longer an elite player. But consider the fact that two years ago, he was MVP of a season in which LeBron was still getting better as a player. And unlike Derrick Rose in 2010, Durant was unquestionably deserving of the award. LeBron is King, but it appeared that the rebellion against and eventual usurping of his empire was closer than previously forecast.

As unfair as this may seem on the surface, consider the Michael Jordan era. Once he ascended to the top, he never relinquished his place at the summit. He also was never a basketball afterthought, even as Bird, Magic and Zeke were winning while MJ was still being stonewalled in the playoffs.

A little more fairly, the same can be said for this current era of LeBron. Granted, LeBron has yet to suffer a season-ending injury like Durant. But, once LeBron became The Best, those who debate the title do so mostly out of dislike. Even as other superstars won MVP awards during these two respective reigns of dominance, there were little to no illusions as to who was Number One. This isn't to decree Durant's place in history. It does, however, acknowledge that his career arc has the shape of something perhaps beneath his ability.

Superstars get injured all the time. In Durant's case, his ailing foot allowed for the one thing that happens to everyone within a structured employment setting: the ability to be replaced. Of course, Durant is still Option One in Oklahoma City. But his absence meant the NBA realm needed another baby face to take up the mantle of the common man's answer to LeBron's sovereignty. Enter: The Baby-Faced Assassin, Stephen Curry.

Curry became everyone's favorite en route to last season's regular-season MVP and title. Some even believe only LeBron is ahead of him right now and that soon he will usurp the King once age catches him.

Kevin Durant, using the timeless debate modifier "when healthy," is still the best player on the Thunder and still the second-best basketball player in the world — and is so by a considerable margin. But with last season's injury and Curry's ascension, it is fair to wonder if he'll ever have the Association to himself at any point in the near future. With Anthony Davis and Andrew Wiggins as next up, Durant may not be able to own the NBA later, either.

This doesn't mean he's not great. But it just may mean that he won't have the empire to show for it.

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