Kevin Durant: How Thunder Star Is Finally Ushering in the Post-Jordan Era
The brightest star of the star-filled Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that just took Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals by destroying the Miami Heat in the second half, is already dominating the NBA while showing no signs that his ascent to the top is slowing in any way.
Ever since Jordan hung up his Washington Wizards uniform for the last time and closed the book on the greatest career The Association has ever seen, we've been in a constant search for "the next Jordan." After all, that next great player would establish the starting point of the post-Jordan era and create his own legacy.
The list of players who have been called "the next Jordan" goes on and on, while the players that populate said list have enjoyed or struggled through NBA careers of varying success.
Harold Miner, or "Baby Jordan," struggled to find his way in the NBA. Jerry Stackhouse, Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter (especially Vince Carter) never made the most of their massive loads of talent. The injury bug got to Grant Hill.
Dwyane Wade never reached the Jordan level even if he was, is and will be a superstar for the foreseeable future. LeBron James may get there, but he has yet to show the competitive fire that Jordan possessed.
Of all the players who have been compared to Jordan, only Kobe Bryant has come close to reaching that level of greatness. While the Black Mamba has been one of the 10 best players in NBA history, he hasn't reached that truly elite tier with a population of just one.
That leaves Durant. Right now, the basketball world belongs to him. It's up for the high-scoring small forward to grab that world by the horns and show it who's boss.
Only then will we truly be in the post-Jordan era.
Durant is just 23 years old and in his fifth season, but he's already won three scoring titles and appears poised to win his first NBA Title. If he does so, it's hard to imagine anybody else taking home the Finals MVP award.
The scary part is that Durant isn't going to slow down anytime soon. He's nowhere near his ceiling.
Durant is currently the second-best player in the NBA, trailing only the aforementioned LeBron James. However, can you really see LeBron getting that much better? He's already the best perimeter defender in the league, has incredible passing skills and competes for scoring titles while maintaining the efficiency that helped him win his third MVP.
Durant, though, can get significantly better once his passing skills improve and his defense continues its ascent toward the elite. Within the next few years, Durant will surpass LeBron and claim the throne in the current NBA landscape.
The style with which Durant plays doesn't resemble Jordan's. He's not as athletic and prefers to shoot from the outside instead of driving like Jordan used to do so often. That's why I hesitate to label Durant—or anyone for that matter—as the newest "the next Jordan."
He's not. He's Kevin Durant.
Right now, that's just about the best thing anybody in sports can be. Durant inspires unshakable confidence, he's likable and he's an insanely good basketball player.
If that's not the perfect recipe for ushering in the post-Jordan effort, then nothing we're seeing right now is.
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