2012 NBA Finals: What If Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant Chokes?

Joye PruittSenior Analyst IDecember 21, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 23:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder addresses the media after the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Thunder 112-105 in overtime in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Oklahoma City Arena on May 23, 2011 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder's youth, including Kevin Durant, make them viable contenders to win the Western Conference finals after a shortened 66 game season. However, watch out for the trend circulating around the NBA.

After a few seasons in the league, if a superstar does not win a championship they are placed in one of two categories:

  • LBJ (LeBron James): If you do not win in the NBA Finals due to your own collapse, and not the lack of effort from those surrounding you, then you are officially labeled with the LBJ syndrome.
  • MJ (Michael Jordan): You just need time if you get to the NBA Finals and don’t win. It took Jordan seven seasons to win his first ring and you are given an extension on what you’re able to accomplish. Did you handle your business? If so, don’t worry about your reputation in or outside of the league. You’re still worthy and able.

What would happen if Kevin Durant got to the NBA Finals and choked? Right now it seems like the most unreal thing anyone has ever stated or predicted about the 2011 NBA season, but no one thought that it could happen to LeBron James either.

If you would have told the avid supporters of James that he would choke at some of the biggest moments of his professional life, no one would have believed you. His first years in such a small market franchise like the Cleveland Cavaliers were honoring to watch. He garnered an athletic ability that is unmatched and showed a ton of promise.

After four years in the league, Durant has his best chances to reach the NBA Finals.  But, what if he gets there and someway, somehow everything that he has proven he can be escapes him?

The idea sounds ludicrous, but anything is possible in this day and age of the NBA. Players collapse all the time and the most inevitable mistakes usually come at the most inopportune moments of a season. Say, the entire NBA Finals series?

Durant has a dog in him. Something perpetually propels him in front of his predecessors and something makes his ambition of greater value than most other players without a ring have accomplished.  However, there have been moments when Durant’s leadership has been questionable. That chest-pounding dictator that the Thunder needs has not always been apparent.

The two-time scoring champion of the NBA can be timid at times, and that was LeBron’s major downfall in last year’s postseason. Instead of being a monster around the rim when his team desperately needed it, he stepped back and took on the responsibility of being an immediate passer.

The ball was barely in his hands for a consecutive three seconds before the decision was made to dish it off to one of his teammates. Great shot opportunities? So what? James was just set and prepared to not be the reason why his team lost at such an intense level. Therefore, instead of bearing down and drawing contact, he took seven steps back into playing scared.

If Kevin Durant were to lose his heart in the Finals it would not be because he did not shoot enough. His problems would arise from not being accurate enough to put up the points.

Durant is a pure scorer with one of the most fluid strokes in the league next to players like Dirk Nowitzki, who he battled in last year’s Western Conference Finals. But, with any less than an exuberant and lethal mental capacity for the showdown of conferences in the Finals, there could be a moment where he just can’t get the shot down.

There were only two games in the 2011 playoffs where Durant scored less than 20 points and both were against the Memphis Grizzlies. In Game 6, where Oklahoma City had the opportunity to shut down any series hopes for Memphis, Durant only scored 11 points with 3-of-14 shooting from the field including 1-of-9 from behind the three-point line.

It was by far the worst game most fans had ever seen Durant play. While the blame was shoved in Westbrook’s face because of how many shots he took compared to Durant, it should still be profound that Durant just did not perform in a possible close out game.

Going back to Oklahoma City was the best opportunity they had to win with the series locked at three games and that would not be acceptable against a hungry Miami Heat team in the Finals.

To be fair, it would not be acceptable against a team like the Chicago Bulls or, if they were lucky enough to come out of the East, Carmelo’s NY Knicks.

Kevin Durant is an excellent player.

Kevin Durant is a developing leader.

Kevin Durant is only human.

By losing sight of all of the possibilities a game of this magnitude could offer, we could all be due for an extravagant amount of disappointment. Are we truly trying to go back down that road? 


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