Kevin Durant is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. His greatness has been debated by many analysts and fans across the world. At the end of the day, the question is where do we put Durant in the all-time rankings? Does he belong in the top-20, top-15, or even top-10 when you think of the greatest players to ever play?
One way to measure greatness is to see how he stacks against players that also have greatness. We have measured Michael Jordan’s greatness against players like Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, and Charles Barkley. We have done the same with LeBron James against players like Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry. When you stack up Durant’s career record against past and current NBA superstars, where does that leave Durant on the greatness scale?
Let’s take a look at his career record against some of the greatest players ever and let you form your conclusions.
Total: 15-20 (42.9% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 6-15
Out of all the modern-day superstars, Durant’s biggest nemesis has to be LeBron James. In the regular season, LeBron has had the upper hand on Durant by winning 15 out of 21 games. Despite Durant (29.8 PPG) and LeBron (29.6 PPG) averaging close to similar numbers, LeBron owns a better rebounding, assists, and steals mark. LeBron also has the highest game-high in points with 51 against Durant.
With that said, Durant has the better playoff record in three matchups in the Finals. LeBron won the first round when the Heat triumphed over the Thunder when the team was young. However, when Durant joined the Warriors, Durant bounced LeBron twice in the NBA Finals. Despite the way the Lakers are playing right now, many are holding out for LeBron and Durant to meet again in the NBA Finals this year.
Total: 22-26 (45.8% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 13-19
This rivalry stems back to when Durant was a scoring machine with the Thunder and Paul was throwing up lobs in Los Angeles with the Clippers. The two teams saw each other plenty of times when they played in the Western Conference. That includes when Durant played for the Warriors and Paul played with the Rockets. Altogether, Durant struggled against teams led by Paul in the regular season but got the better hand in the playoffs.
That includes Durant leading the Warriors past the Rockets in a seven-game series in the 2018 Conference Finals. That kept Paul out of the NBA Finals for another year, while Durant went on to win his second Finals MVP. Altogether, Durant owns the better slash line with 29.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.0 steals against Paul-led teams.
Total: 12-14 (46.1% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 11-10
This matchup couldn’t get any closer according to the numbers. For starters, Durant averaged a line of 29.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.0 blocks. Wade averaged 21.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.1 blocks. The regular-season record against the two players is barely in Durant’s favor. The only reason that Wade has the upper hand on Durant is that the two teams met in the NBA Finals once and the Heat came away victorious.
When you look at the game highs, Durant owns the better game with 40 points, but Wade is right behind him with a game of 38 points. These are two very established players that will forever go down in the history of the game. Their underrated rivalry with each other proves that.
Total: 17-19 (47.2% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 11-14
Despite the two players going head to head with one another 36 total times, it feels like we needed more. Durant made his debut in the league in 2007, which was right around when the Lakers started to mold their championship teams. From 2007 to 2012, the Lakers were very good, while Durant won three scoring titles during that span. That is why when you look at Durant’s 26.9 points against Bryant and Bryant’s 26.9 points against Durant, it’s no surprise.
These are two of the most effective scorers in the history of the NBA. Durant outscored Bryant 19 times in the history of their meetings. Bryant had the better overall game with a 48-point effort, while Durant’s best was 42 points. With that said, Durant got the last laugh over Bryant when his 2012 Thunder knocked out Bryant’s Lakers in the Conference Semifinals.
Total: 22-22 (50% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 12-14
According to the numbers, Durant played very well against Duncan. Durant averaged 26.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in comparison to Duncan’s 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. Durant once scored 45 points against the Spurs, while Duncan could only muster 27 points. When Durant and Duncan faced off, Durant outscored Duncan 39 times.
In the 2012 playoffs, Durant’s squad knocked the Spurs out of the Conference Finals, but then the Spurs returned the favor in 2014. The Spurs made the NBA Finals and won the championship that season by defeating the Heat, the team that knocked Durant out of the Finals in 2012. Beating a Duncan-led squad half of the time is still nothing to hang your head on for too long.
Total: 9-9 (50% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 5-8
Irving came to play when Durant was on the other side. Irving averaged a respectable 23.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.8 steals against Durant teams. That includes scoring the most points in 40. On the other side, Durant averaged 28.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.6 blocks. Most of these matchups featured Durant playing for either the Thunder or Warriors. Irving only played Durant once in the playoffs, which was the 2017 NBA Finals.
During those Finals, Durant won Finals MVP as he led the Warriors over the Cavaliers, which then saw Irving bolt for the Celtics. Now, the two players are teammates on the Brooklyn Nets and will not add to their history for the foreseeable future.
Total: 5-5 (50% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 5-5
After playing as teammates for so long, the first meeting between the two players didn’t come until 2016. As you recall, the Thunder owned a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Conference Finals, but let their lead slip before losing to the Warriors. That led to Durant joining the Warriors in the offseason, which sparked a testy rivalry between the two former teammates.
In that first meeting, Durant outplayed Westbrook with 39 points to his 20 and won the first matchup in blowout fashion. Durant won all three matchups that season despite Westbrook scoring 47 points in one game. Westbrook is nearly averaging a triple-double against Durant, but the two players are deadlocked at 5-5 in the all-time series. If the two meet in the playoffs, it will be a Nets vs. Lakers Finals, which is what everyone is secretly hoping to see this year.
Total: 19-17 (52.7% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 8-10
You are never going to know what you are going to get when it comes to Kevin Durant vs. James Harden. For starters, the stat lines are so close to each other. Durant averages 30.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks, while Harden averages 29.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.8 steals, and 0.7 blocks. Durant has outscored Harden 18 of the 35 times and a lot of those times could have easily gone the other way. That can be proven by the two players' game-highs against each other, an identical 46 points.
Now that the two players are teammates with the Nets, this legacy will not be continued for the time being. In the past, Durant got the best of Harden in the playoffs when he played for the Warriors and Harden played for the Rockets. As previously mentioned, the biggest killer came in Harden’s MVP season, when the Warriors ousted the Rockets in seven games in the Conference Finals.
Total: 12-9 (57.1% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 9-5
In 20 of the 21 matchups, both players outscored the other 10 times and one of those times featured Giannis and Durant scoring the same amount. This is a rivalry that is must-watch television, as evidenced by the team’s seven-round playoff series in the semifinals last year. The playoff record against the two teams all stems from 2021. The entire NBA world is secretly hoping for a rematch this year.
As for the regular season, Durant owns the better mark against Giannis. Durant won many of the early victories when Giannis was a younger Buck, but as of late, the series has been divided nearly in half. The Nets and Bucks are two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, so despite Durant’s overall winning total, this is not an easy game for Durant to win.
Total: 19-14 (57.8% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 16-10
Fans are quickly going to jump to the conclusion that since Durant owns more wins against Curry, why would he be so quick to join him in 2016? That’s a pretty loaded question. Most of Durant’s wins against Curry came from 2009 to 2014, which was before the Warriors became the championship dynasty they became. During that time, Durant won three scoring titles, made the NBA Finals before Curry, and won an MVP. The Warriors were not on the same level as the Thunder until 2014-2015.
When the Warriors became that championship contender, Curry went on to defeat Durant nine of the next 13 matchups, which included the 2016 Conference Finals. Durant hadn’t won a title yet and saw an opening. Since joining the Nets, Durant has won two of the last three meetings, proving he can beat Curry-led teams. Now, he just has to do it in the playoffs, which is a real possibility if the Warriors and Nets meet in the NBA Finals this year.
Total: 30-18 (62.5% winning percentage)
Regular Season: 21-13
The superstar that Durant had the most success against in his NBA career was Dirk Nowitzki. Durant averaged 25.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.1 blocks against Nowitzki-led teams. In comparison, Nowitzki averaged 22.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks. All in all, Durant simply outplayed the all-time Mavericks great.
His lone blemish came in the 2011 Western Conference Finals when the Mavericks upended the Thunder in six games. That included a 40-point game from Nowitzki in overtime in Game 5 and the Nowitzki outsourcing Durant in Game 6 to send Dallas to the NBA Finals, where they clinched the championship. With that said, Durant beat Nowitzki the following two times they met in the playoffs, solidifying his dominance of the Dallas great.