There is no doubt that Kevin Durant and Larry Bird are both in the argument for being two of the top-three small forwards in NBA history. But when looking at their resumes and careers, they are much more than elite shooters and have won a combined 5 NBA titles between them. Durant won 2 NBA championships in his career, adding in 2 Finals MVP awards and a regular-season MVP award. Kevin Durant is a once-in-a-lifetime player because he took what George Gervin did as a slender scorer except added a consistent three-point shot. Over his career, Durant’s shooting percentages are extremely impressive, even for a 4-time scoring champion who is expected to take the most shots on the floor. Not to mention, Durant is a team player who likes to pick his spots on offense, a reason why he holds averages of 49.6% FG, 38.4% 3-PT FG, and 88.4% FT.
At the same time, one of the greatest shooters ever and an icon in the game of basketball, Larry Legend is also one of the most clutch players and ruthless competitors in sports history. Along with Magic Johnson, Larry Bird helped boost the NBA’s popularity to incredible levels during the 1980s. Outside of Bill Russell, Larry Bird is known to be Mr. Celtic because he had the most accomplishments for the iconic Boston Celtics franchise.
That is why it could be interesting to compare both players in terms of their statistical achievements. Specifically, it is time to uncover their career highs in major statistical categories to get an indication of which player was able to accumulate stats better than the other. While many will claim that Larry Bird is a greater all-time player than Kevin Durant because of his 3 NBA titles and 3 MVP awards, does he have the edge in the most important career-high statistical categories? It is time to find out.
Kevin Durant: 55 Points (Nets vs. Hawks, April 02, 2022)
Larry Bird: 60 Points (Celtics vs. Hawks, March 12, 1985)
Kevin Durant’s career-high in scoring came during the 2021-22 season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. The superstar forward went ballistic on the Hawks’ defense, nailing 19-28 shots from the field, including 8-10 from three and 9-11 from the free-throw line. Anytime a scorer of Durant’s caliber nails 8 three-pointers, a historic game should shortly ensue, which is what happened on April 2, 2022.
Despite Durant’s offensive explosion, the Nets still lost the game 122-115. It must be mentioned how incredible it is that Durant never eclipsed 55 points because he has the skill and capability to score over 60 points in a single game with relative ease. But KD only cares about playing team basketball and scoring efficiently, rather than going after high-scoring games such as other elite scorers throughout history.
Larry Bird has his career-high of 60 points on March 12, 1985, in a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. Larry Bird found the range in this regular-season encounter, going ballistic on all areas of the floor to shoot 22-36 from the field and 15-16 from the free-throw line.
Amazingly, Bird only shot 1-4 from the three-point line, an indication of how different the game was back in the 1980s. Had Bird made more threes, he would have had over 70 points with ease that game.
Advantage: Larry Bird
Kevin Durant: 18 Rebounds (Thunder vs. Timberwolves, January 26, 2011)
Larry Bird: 21 Rebounds (Celtics vs. 76ers, November 1, 1980), (Celtics vs. Lakers, February 11, 1981), (Celtics vs. Nuggets, December 29, 1981), (Celtics vs. Bullets, March 16, 1982)
Kevin Durant is close to standing 7 feet tall, so it is no surprise to see him grab an impressive 18 rebounds in a performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 26, 2011. Kevin Durant actually had an impressive all-around game with 47 points on 15-28 from the field to go along with his 18 rebounds.
While leading his team in rebounds (Kevin Love had 21 rebounds), the Thunder won the game 118-117, interestingly making it a one-point victory. Over his career, KD has an average of 7.1 RPG, which signals he has been a solid rebounder for much of his career.
Larry Bird once again posted impressive career-highs over his career in multiple performances against four different teams. But this time, it comes in the form of crashing the boards. The talented small forward achieved his career-high in rebounds with 21 in multiple regular-season showdowns against the 76ers, Lakers, Nuggets, and Bullets. Larry Legend averaged 10.0 RPG for his career, so he was always capable of grabbing the ball off the rim consistently and has to go down in history as one of the most elite board-crashing stars from his position. As a perimeter player, Bird was simply exceptional.
Advantage: Larry Bird
Kevin Durant: 16 Assists (Nets vs. Pacers, April 10, 2022)
Larry Bird: 17 Assists (Celtics vs. Warriors, February 16, 1984)
The Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant had another career-high performance this season, putting up 16 assists in spectacular fashion in a 134-126 victory over the Indiana Pacers. A score-first player, Durant is not known for his passing ability, although he is above-average in that regard.
Anytime a score-first player of Durant’s caliber feeds his teammates like that, a win is normally ascertained, and that was what happened in the game against the Indiana Pacers. Durant’s career APG average is 4.3 APG, which is solid but otherwise unspectacular when compared to Bird’s average of 6.3 APG.
Larry Bird was a scorer, but he was also an all-time great playmaker from the small forward position. The Celtics star was known to be an efficient playmaker, taking the most shots on his team consistently or setting his teammates up when the offense forced that. The proof is in the pudding, as Bird won 3 championships that way, so it clearly worked. No doubt about it, Larry was a very capable passer. The small forward had one of the highest basketball IQs in NBA history, and he used it to accumulate an impressive 17 assists against the Warriors in February of 1984.
Advantage: Larry Bird
Kevin Durant: 5 Steals (Thunder vs. Mavericks, December 13, 2008), (Thunder vs. Mavericks, April 3, 2010), (Thunder vs. Clippers, November 21, 2012), (Thunder vs. Nuggets, January 16, 2013)
Larry Bird: 9 Steals (Celtics vs. Jazz, February 18, 1985)
A man without a single All-Defensive Team selection, Kevin Durant had a career-high 5 steals in four different games over his career. The first came in 2008 when he managed 5 steals against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. The last time KD did that was in 2013 when he managed 5 steals against the Denver Nuggets, once again as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Slim Reaper has an average of 1.1 SPG compared to Larry Bird’s average of 1.7 SPG, which is why he never managed to eclipse the 5-steal mark and come close to Bird’s career-high of 9 steals.
Larry Bird registered an impressive 9 steals in a showdown against the Utah Jazz in 1985 while also putting up 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. The Celtics won the game rather convincingly, 110-94, and his career-high in steals usurped the entire Jazz team.
The small forward was not known to be an elite defender, with only 3 All-Defensive Team selections, but he clearly knew how to punish the opposition for their poor handles and inability to make solid plays. Whether playing passing lanes or picking the ball in one-on-one situations, Bird was a hound at getting steals over his career, as seen from his performance on February 18, 1985.
Advantage: Larry Bird
Kevin Durant: 7 Blocks (Warriors vs. Pelicans, October 20, 2017), (Warriors vs. Kings, February 21, 2019)
Larry Bird: 5 Blocks (Celtics vs. Bulls, November 04, 1981), (Celtics vs. Clippers, December 27, 1986), (Celtics vs. Pistons, March 30, 1990), (Celtics vs. Hornets, November 14, 1990)
Kevin Durant, at nearly 7 feet tall, could be a nightmare on defense when he was a member of the Golden State Warriors. Because of the amount of talent around him on the offensive end, Durant could hone in on his defense which is a major reason why he blocked an impressive 7 shots on two separate occasions.
The first came in 2017 against the Pelicans when Durant also registered 22 points and 8 rebounds. The next came in 2019 when KD dropped 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 blocks against the Kings.
Larry Bird managed to block 5 shots in a single game on four separate occasions, the first being in 1981 and the last coming in the 1990 season. Again, Bird was not known to be an elite defender, but he was very capable of blocking some shots on the court. Bird has a career average of 0.8 BPG, with his best season in that regard coming in 1985 when he registered 1.2 BPG. No doubt about it, Bird was capable of zoning in defensively when he really needed to, although he was more focused on shooting and passing. But finally, Durant has a higher career number of blocks versus Bird.
Advantage: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant: 8 3-Pointers Made (Nets vs. Hawks, April 02, 2022)
Larry Bird: 7 3-Pointers Made (Celtics vs. Mavericks, April 03, 1988), (Celtics vs. Pacers, March 04, 1991)
Kevin Durant made his career-high 8 three-pointers as a member of the Golden State Warriors but as a member of the Brooklyn Nets this past season. The forward made 8 threes against the Atlanta Hawks, even though the Nets lost the game 122-115 in the same game when KD scored his career-high 55 points.
Somehow, the Nets could not close the deal because the Hawks had enough juice thanks to a 36-point, 10-assist performance from Trae Young. Overall, Durant has a career average of 1.9 makes from deep.
The numbers show that Larry Bird was known to be a volume three-point shooter and not a natural marksman from deep. But that was not true, as Larry Bird managed to drain 7 three-pointers in a game against the Mavericks and Pacers. There is no doubt that the Celtics legend is one of the purest shooters ever, and had he played in today’s game, he would have scored the ball from deep much more. Over his career, Bird averaged 0.7 makes from deep. Obviously, he would have made at least 3 or 4 threes per game over his career if he had played in today’s game.
Advantage: Kevin Durant
Field Goals Made
Kevin Durant: 19 Field-Goals Made (Thunder vs. Nuggets, February 19, 2012), (Thunder vs. Warriors, January 17, 2014), (Nets vs. Knicks, March 13, 2022), (Nets vs. Hawks, April 02, 2022)
Larry Bird: 22 Field-Goals Made (Celtics vs. Hawks, March 12, 1985), (Celtics vs. Knicks, April 12, 1987)
Kevin Durant’s career-high in field goals made is not as high as Bird’s. But the swingman still made 19 shots on four separate occasions, even though he could have made over 20 field goals with relative ease at multiple points over his career. But Durant’s unwillingness to force the issue and instead share the ball cut his statistics back. Of course, he has played with some other ball-dominant players over his career, including Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving, among others. Still, KD made 19 shots with the Thunder on two occasions and 19 with the Nets this season. In a span of under two months, Durant went off against the Knicks and Hawks, going for 53 points and 55 points, respectively. But once again, Durant’s career-high in a category pales in comparison to Bird’s.
Larry Bird hit his career-high 22 field goals in two iconic performances in the 1985 and 1987 seasons. The Celtics legend was simply unconscious because he played with efficiency and aggressiveness en route to a 47-point and 60-point performance on March 12, 1985, and April 12, 1987, respectively. Larry was known to make shots around the court when on fire, and on those two occasions, the legend was on another level on the offensive end.
Advantage: Larry Bird
Free Throws Made
Kevin Durant: 24 Free Throws Made (Thunder vs. Clippers, January 23, 2009)
Larry Bird: 16 Free Throws Made (Celtics vs. Bucks, April 12, 1985)
Kevin Durant never scored as much as Bird in one game in terms of total points, but he still made more free throws in a single game than the Celtics star did. The forward made 24 foul shots in January 2009 against the Los Angeles Clippers on 26 attempts. Unsurprisingly, Durant scored 46 points and led all scorers in the game. But rather shockingly, Durant could not guide the Oklahoma City Thunder to a victory as the Clippers won the game 107-104. Still, KD has an advantage over Bird in free-throw categories.
Larry Bird was not only a terrific mid-range scorer, but he was adept at attacking the rim to generate fouls. An unspectacular athlete in his prime, Bird had to use his cleverness and natural strength to generate contact around the rim. Of course, Bird was also adept at pump-faking and drawing fouls on his jumpers. Bird hit 16 free throws in a single game on April 12, 1985, in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Bird scored 47 points in that game.
Advantage: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant: 11 Turnovers (Thunder vs. Spurs, January 22, 2014)
Larry Bird: 10 Turnovers (Celtics vs. Knicks, November 17, 1979)
Kevin Durant is similar to Bird in terms of the aggressiveness he has had to face over his career, a reason why he has an average of 3.2 turnovers per game. Slightly outdoing Larry, Durant had a career-high 11 turnovers in a single game against the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Except for this time, Durant was able to lead his team to victory against the Spurs by scoring 36 points. Overall, turnovers are considered a negative statistic, and because of that, Bird has the advantage of having a lower turnovers career-high.
Larry Bird averaged a career 3.1 turnovers per game, mainly because he was such a high-usage player who handled the ball a ton and also was forced to create offense for his team through scoring the ball or creating for others. With Larry Bird facing consistent double-teams throughout his career, he was forced to deal with aggressive defenses, and his passes would often go uncaught. The Celtics legend also managed a whopping 10 turnovers in a game against the Knicks in 1979, negatively impacting the game in which the Celtics lost 113-109.
Advantage: Larry Bird
Larry Bird Is A Greater All-Around Player Compared To Kevin Durant Who Is A Modern-Day Unstoppable Scorer
No doubt about it, when looking at the career-high statistics, it can be deduced that Larry Bird is a greater individual talent than Kevin Durant because of his tremendous all-around ability. It is no secret that Bird wanted to win games at all costs and would be whatever was required for him at any point during a season. A shoot-first small forward with elite scoring ability, Bird managed to usurp the majority of Durant’s career-highs because of his elite rebounding and passing. It truly takes a special kind of player and mentality to be able to do multiple things on the floor at such a high level.
Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is and will always be a team player. Despite standing close to 7 feet tall with incredible length and shooting ability, Durant never tried to shatter scoring records because he wanted to share the ball and play the right way. For years, during Durant’s days in Oklahoma City, fans and pundits pleaded for the 2014 MVP to take more shots than Russell Westbrook and be selfish in terms of looking to score. Even in Golden State, Durant loved playing team basketball and sacrificed his own stats for the sake of winning championships alongside other stars.
It is even interesting to see that Durant has a lower career-high in scoring when compared to Bird, although he is no doubt a better scorer. Again, KD prefers to not always lead his side in scoring, and if it happens, it is mainly a coincidence. Meanwhile, when Bird was hot, he was going to take every shot on the court and would make no apologies for that. Larry Legend also seems to have had more of an impact defensively, whether proof comes in his 3 All-Defensive Teams or his career-highs in steals.
When it comes to other areas of the court, including rebounding and passing, Bird has a big advantage. Bird was a gifted passer, and he could have led the league in APG if he had put his mind to it. Even when he was a score-first player, he knew how to make elite passes and always made others around him better. So it is no surprise he has the edge over Durant in career-high assists and usurps Durant’s career-high in rebounds. KD is 6’10” and looks to be 7 feet tall from the naked eye, so the fact that he has been unable to get close to Bird in rebounding is interesting. Otherwise, the career highs for each player are more or less expected.
Overall, when it comes to all-around ability on the court, Bird greatly usurps what Durant did over his career. As a taller player who competes at the forward position, KD has the edge in areas where the modern era comes into play, including 3-pointers and free-throws made. It can be deduced that Bird is a more talented all-around talent across the board, but Durant is more of a modern-day unstoppable scorer.