In the last twelve months Kevin Durant has been quickly elevated to the status of superstar in the NBA.
Most people rank Durant as one of the top three or four players in the NBA.
But is he a truly a bona fide superstar? Or is he more of a one-hit wonder?
I propose that he may be the next coming of Vince Carter.
Carter achieved superstardom early in his career but eventually turned out to be little more than a very good NBA player.
Let's see how the careers of these two players compare.
The NBA Draft
Both players came into the draft as one of the most exciting and talked about college players in the country.
Vince Carter was selected 5th overall in the 1998 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. He was then immediately traded to the Toronto Raptors for the fourth pick, Carter's collegiate teammate Antawn Jamison.
Kevin Durant was selected 2nd overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics. (The Seattle Supersonics were one year away from their move to Oklahoma City).
Both Carter and Durant started their NBA journey on very young teams in very small markets.
In his rookie season, Vince Carter averaged a remarkable 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game.
He shot a decent 45% from the field, but only 28.8% from 3-point range.
Carter was named Rookie of the Year.
While the Raptors would not make the playoffs, there was a sense of excitement around the young, promising team.
In his rookie season, Kevin Durant averaged an incredible 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game.
He shot a mediocre 43% from the field, and just 28.8% from 3-point range.
While the Supersonics would only win a franchise-low 20 games there was a renewed excitement around the teams core of promising young talent.
Both players took the league by storm as rookies, showing early signs of greatness.
Second Year in the NBA
Vince Carter improved solidly on his rookie season with averages of 25.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks per game.
He saw a dramatic increase in his 3-point shooting percentage, as it jumped to 40.3%.
Carter helped the Raptors make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history but were quickly swept in the first round by the New York Knicks.
Kevin Durant also improved upon his rookie year with averages of 25.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game.
He also saw a noticeable increase in his 3-point shooting percentage. It jumped up to 42.2%, almost 14 points higher.
Durant emerged as a true team leader but the Thunder managed just 23 wins in a very tough western conference.
Both players improved upon stellar rookie seasons and managed to start hitting outside shots with consistency.
Third Year in the NBA
This was the year that Vince Carter emerged as a superstar.
With the departure of Tracy McGrady, Carter was the unquestioned franchise player and had his best season ever in the NBA.
Carter finished his third year with 27.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game.
Carter was the fifth highest scorer in the league that year.
The Raptors won their first playoff series in franchise history. They went on to lose a hard-fought seven-game series to Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.
This was also the year that Kevin Durant emerged as a superstar.
Durant finished his third year with 30.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game.
Durant was the scoring champion in the league last season.
Superstar and A Good Guy
After three incredible seasons, Vince Carter was labeled as a superstar in the NBA.
He was praised as a stand-up guy who didn't seek glory and was a great role model.
Here are a couple of article headlines from 2001 that reflect Carter's reputation at that time.
After three incredible seasons, Kevin Durant has been labeled as a superstar in the NBA.
He is praised as a team-first player who doesn't seek media attention and does things the right way.
Here are a couple of articles from this year that reflect Durant's reputation.
After establishing himself as one of the premier talents in the league after just three seasons, Carter wasted no time in extending his contract with the Toronto Raptors.
In the summer of 2001, Carter signed a six-year, $94 million dollar deal to keep him in Toronto.
About the signing, Glen Grunwald, GM of the Raptors told reporters:
"Not only is Vince a superstar on the court... he is one in the community as well. His re-signing continues to illustrate that Toronto is one of the top franchises in the NBA."
Vince Carter was quoted as saying, about the extension, "I love living in Toronto and being a Raptor so when it came down to actually making the decision, it wasn't very hard."
Similarly, Durant wasted no time in extending his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has quickly made a name for himself in the NBA.
This summer, Durant signed a five-year, $85 million dollar deal to stay in Oklahoma City.
About the signing, Sam Presti, GM of the Thunder told reporters:
""Today is about commitment... [Kevin] demonstrated why he is a unique superstar, one that our organization stands behind and believes in."
Durant said on his website, about the extension, "Oklahoma City is a place I want to be and I couldn't imagine not playing for the Thunder... It was really a no-brainer."
What Does the Future Hold?
As you can see, there are uncanny similarities in the first few years of these two players careers.
In both cases, they had earned a spot as an NBA superstar by their third year in the league.
So what happens after that?
In Vince Carter's case, we know what happened.
Carter saw a dip in his stats in his fourth year with the Raptors. He struggled some with injuries, but managed to lead the Raptors back to the playoffs where they were handed an early exit.
The following off-season, the relationship between team management and Vince Carter started to deteriorate. Carter became frustrated with the direction that the franchise was taking.
As a result, Carter saw his playing time go down the following season, and was eventually traded to the New Jersey Nets for three players and two draft picks.
Vince Carter would never return to his third-year form, only averaging 25 points per game twice in the 10 seasons that would follow.
In Kevin Durant's case, we don't know what will happen?
Will he continue to be the superstar that we believe him to be?
Or will his career continue to follow the course of Vince Carter?
If so, Kevin Durant might be less of a superstar and more of a one-hit wonder.