Kevin Durant made media splashes recently after he claimed he was a top-10 player of all time. For many fans of Durant’s unstoppable offensive game and exciting style of play, that is not as far-fetched as it might sound. But for neutral basketball fans, that claim might not be true.
There is no doubt that Kevin Durant is a top-10 scoring talent of all time because he has no comparison in terms of being a 6’10” sharpshooter with a wingspan that extends over 7 feet. In raw talent, Durant has a solid argument for being one of the most uniquely unstoppable players to ever play the game.
But taking into account career achievements and overall dominance of the game, cracking into the top-10 is almost impossible for any current player because of the quality of superstars that are considered the 10 greatest ever. But taking what Kevin Durant has done in the league and also his surreal talent, it is time to find out if the former MVP has a shot at being mentioned among the top-10 greats.
Kevin Durant Is Not A Top-5 Player Of All Time
When looking at the cream of the crop, it is hard to argue for Kevin Durant being a top-5 player. No matter what your particular top-5 is, Durant cannot come close. First off, Michael Jordan. At age 33, it is obvious that Durant does not have enough time to come close to Jordan’s achievements. Whether it’s the 6 championships with one team, 10 scoring titles, or 6 Finals MVPs, Durant is sorely lacking.
Next up are LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Unless Kevin Durant can play at a superstar level for as long as them and start breaking scoring records and possibly win 2 more championships; these two stars also seem unreachable. With the pace and space of the game, it is possible that Durant can play into his late 30’s like LeBron James is doing now, but until he does so, Durant cannot be compared to them.
Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Bill Russell are names that are constantly shuffled around when discussing the remainder of the top-5 list. For most NBA players and analysts, Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson are often taken top-5 because of their competitive nature and spectacular achievements for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Durant will likely not catch Kobe and Magic’s 5 championships, meaning he will never be considered as great as them. Bryant came closest to Michael Jordan in terms of playing style, and his bloodthirsty competitiveness gives him an edge over the rather subdued Durant. Magic was the architect for a Showtime Lakers Dynasty that won 5 titles and is the undisputed greatest player at his position. Unfortunately, Durant cannot make the same claims.
Kevin Durant Is Not A Top 6-9 Player Of All Time
With the top-5 ranking out of the way, perhaps Kevin Durant had a chance to fall somewhere in the next group of Hall of Famers. The first name that has to be mentioned is Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion and a player considered to be the most dominant defender ever by his peers. There is no doubt that Russell changed the game, and no big man outside of Kareem has a chance to be compared to him.
Larry Bird is another name that will most likely always be above Kevin Durant’s. The Celtics legend was considered the greatest small forward ever until LeBron James started breaking records, and he sits firmly in second place. Of course, Durant is third, but he cannot be compared to Larry Legend just yet. Bird has 3 championships, 3 MVPs, and 2 Finals MVPs along with being a top-2 player to have ever played for the infamous Celtics franchise.
Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan are two more names that are considered in the top-10, and it is hard for Durant to be compared to them either. Shaq and Duncan dominated their positions for years, sharing championship and MVP honors throughout the late 1990s and 2000s. O’Neal won 3 straight Finals MVPs and is the most dominant superstar ever, while Duncan was the leader for a Spurs Dynasty that lasted nearly two decades. With a combined 9 NBA titles, the 6-9 range seems out of the question for the current Brooklyn Nets star.
The Battle For 10th Place
That leaves Kevin Durant in a battle for the most competitive spot in the all-time rankings, 10th place. To crack the top-10, Kevin Durant needs to convince enough fans and analysts that he is a greater player than Wilt Chamberlain or Hakeem Olajuwon ever was. This is where it gets extremely difficult.
Wilt Chamberlain is ranked in the top-10 by most analysts because of the way he changed the game with his athleticism and size. Before Shaquille O’Neal introduced brute force to the world, Wilt was literally jumping and scoring over defenders en route to owning a host of unbreakable records. Scoring 100 points in a game, averaging 50.4 PPG in a season, grabbing 55 rebounds in a game, and having the most 50-point games (118), 60-point games (32), and 70-point games (6) are just a few.
Wilt also won 2 championships, 4 MVPs, 7 scoring titles, and led the league in rebounds 11 times. Again, Durant was never the standout performer in the NBA for as long as Wilt was during his prime. But Durant’s skill level and guard-like ability is a massive boost to his name, but it might not be enough to pass Wilt.
Kevin Durant has a shot to be compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, but it depends on who you ask. Peers of Hakeem would rave about the center’s ability to destroy defenders inside the paint and also carry his teammates on his back. An elite two-way center, Hakeem was more dominant on both sides of the floor than Durant was.
The former Rockets superstar won 2 straight championships with a Rockets squad that featured a host of non-All-Star role players. Hakeem won both Finals MVPs and also captured 2 Defensive Player of the Year awards. Adding in 9 All-Defensive Team selections and an MVP award, it is again difficult for Durant to crack the top-11 let alone the top-10 list of Hall of Famers.
As great as Kevin Durant is, he did have to join a 73-9 Warriors squad that did not necessarily need him to win his first championships. With the deck stacked in his favor, how could he gain the edge over Hakeem Olajuwon who had to carry his team to two straight Finals victories?
Conclusion: Kevin Durant Is Currently 12th All-Time
As things stand, Kevin Durant is not a top-10 player of all time. He does not have enough championships or individual accolades to compare to the players ranked in the top-9. But before the end of his career, he has a shot to crack the top-10.
The men in his sights: Wilt Chamberlain and Hakeem Olajuwon. If Durant can win another 2 championships with the Nets before his career is over along with adding 2 more Finals MVPs and another MVP, he has a legitimate shot to pass Wilt and Hakeem. The reason he is behind them is that he had to join a superteam to win his championships, things that have to be mentioned in a debate of this magnitude.
As of the end of the 2022 season, Kevin Durant can be considered the 12th greatest player of all time. Even when discounting his NBA championships, we have not seen a player that can score as efficiently as Kevin Durant from all areas of the floor. He is a career 27.2 PPG scorer with shooting splits of 49.6% FG, 38.4% 3-PT FG, and 88.4% FT. His effective field-goal percentage is also high at 54.6%, while in terms of PER, Durant (25.3) is ranked 9th all-time.
Durant has taken what George Gervin (4-time scoring champion) did, and turned it up another level with the ability to drain jumpers from 30 feet and beyond. His accolades, while not quite top-10 material, are strong for the 12th greatest player ever: 12 All-Star Teams, 9 All-NBA Teams, 4 scoring titles, 1 MVP, 2 championships, and 2 Finals MVPs.
If Durant can win with Brooklyn and add in a couple more All-Star appearances, All-NBA appearances, scoring titles, and MVPs, he could be the next player to crack the top-10 list by surpassing Wilt Chamberlain and Hakeem Olajuwon. But until that happens, KD is outside of the top-10 with possibly a new goal in mind heading into next season.
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