Speaking with the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina, the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar didn't duck questions of Bryant's influence and talent, readily putting him in the company of Michael Jordan.
"He’s the greatest of all time. His skill is second to none. Him and MJ are neck and neck as far as skill," Durant said. "Kobe is the top two best ever in just having skill, footwork, shooting the 3, shooting the pull-up, posting up, dunking on guys and ball handling. Kobe and Jordan are 1 and 1A."
Someone—not me—is going to misinterpret what Durant is saying.
While Bryant will certainly be remembered as one of the all-time greats, Durant isn't calling him the absolute best ever. Skill is different from resume, just as athleticism isn't the same thing as talent. Just because Durant is saying Bryant has the skills necessary to be pitted alongside Jordan, doesn't mean he's suggesting Bryant is better than Jordan.
Now that the obligatory "Don't you dare overreact" is out of the way, let's consider how revered Bryant is among the NBA's younger generation.
Durant goes on to admit he called Bryant late one night for advice while mulling how to model his game. He isn't the first active superstar to wax respect and admiration for the Black Mamba, and he won't be the last.
Back in January, Indiana Pacers wunderkind Paul George called Bryant his all-time favorite player during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, even though he grew up rooting for the Los Angeles Clippers. That's the type of reach Bryant has. That's how long he's been around.
Unlike others, Durant and George won't stain anything Bryant has accomplished or spend time discrediting and tainting his legacy.
"When you look at me, Carmelo (Anthony), LeBron and Paul George, what we’ve done out there in this league is nothing compared to what Kobe did," Durant told Medina. "We live in a world of what have you done for me lately. We don’t remember the day before sometimes. Think back five, six, years ago what he was doing. It’s unheard of."
I mean, wow.
There isn't a comment in recent years pertaining to Bryant that stands out more than Durant's, especially when you consider how infrequently compliments are thrown his way today.
At 35, the Mamba finds himself facing adversity he has never met before. Age and mortality have gotten the best of him since last spring, starting with a ruptured Achilles, continuing with a second injury and culminating in his inability to return again this season, according to Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding.
But that's what time does. Players break down. Careers hit their twilight.
Reputations never die, though. And an extension of Bryant lives on in Durant, who boasts an equally ridiculous work ethic and innate need to improve.
Bryant, when healthy, has kept the Lakers relevant for years. Durant has and will continue to have a similar impact on the Thunder. As long as he's in Oklahoma City, as long as his desire to work never wavers and his competitive edge never softens, the Thunder are going to be good. They're going to to contend.
"The thing that KD and Kobe have is their ability every night to do it," Thunder coach Scott Brooks explained to Medina. "That is a talent that people do not ever bring up enough. It’s their ability to want to do it every single night for 82 games."
When able, Bryant has brought it every single night for nearly two decades. And though he won't cop to it himself, Durant cannot only idolize that, he can relate to it.
It's Durant that will carry Oklahoma City into the postseason. It's him that can lead the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals and beyond.
It's his work ethic, his Bryant-esque diligence that continues to brighten an already glistening future in Oklahoma City.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!