Kevin Durant Voted Best Player over LeBron James, Giannis by Retired NBA Players

Adam WellsDecember 15, 2021

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) reacts against the Toronto Raptors during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in New York. The Nets won 131-129 in overtime. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant is the best player in the NBA, according to a survey of 118 retired players. 

Per The Athletic's Josh Robbins and Sam Amick, Durant received 44.2 percent of the vote to finish well ahead of runner-up LeBron James (31.6 percent). 

Reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (13.6 percent) was the only other player to receive at least 10 percent of support from those surveyed. Stephen Curry (3.5 percent), Joel Embiid (1.8 percent and Nikola Jokic (1.8 percent) round out the top six. 

Further down the list, injured stars Kawhi Leonard and Zion Williamson both received 0.9 percent of the vote, which took place before the season started. Russell Westbrook and Jimmy Butler also garnered 0.9 percent support from the voters. 

Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Marv Roberts explained why he believes Durant is the best player in the league.

"Durant is the best offensive player in the league," Roberts told Robbins and Amick. "His offensive skills—jump shooting, ball-handling, free-throw shooting, offensive rebounding, passing, posting up, movement without the ball, basketball acumen—plus his height make him almost unstoppable."

Even though James missed 27 games last year due to injuries, his support as the NBA's best player still runs strong. 

"Do you even have to ask?” 1995 All-Star Cedric Ceballos said of his reasoning for putting James at No. 1. 

One anonymous player told Robbins and Amick that Antetokounmpo got his vote in part because he has remained with the Milwaukee Bucks to help them win a championship. 

"He is the most unstoppable force in the game, and [I choose him] because he doesn’t run and switch teams because his team doesn’t have enough talent to compete," the player said of Antetokounmpo. "And he respects his teammates. That’s what you do to be a real MVP and champion."

It is interesting that Curry, who just set a new NBA record for most career three-point field goals made on Tuesday night, is a distant fourth place behind Durant, James and Antetokounmpo. 

Golden State Warriors @warriors

H I S T 3⃣ R Y<br><br>Stephen Curry is officially the greatest shooter this game has ever seen 👏 <a href="https://t.co/BmEhQFcJDH">pic.twitter.com/BmEhQFcJDH</a>

The Golden State Warriors star appears to have the inside track on the 2021-22 NBA MVP award, which would be the third of his career. 

An informal straw poll of 100 NBA insiders conducted by ESPN's Tim Bontemps had Curry as the overwhelming choice for MVP with 94 first-place votes and 978 total points. Durant was second with 610 total points, while Antetokounmpo had the second-most first-place votes (three). 

Curry is averaging 26.9 points per game, though his efficiency has gone down in part due to a recent rough stretch. His 39.9 three-point percentage would be the worst of his career, excluding the 2019-20 season when he only played five games due to injuries. 

The seven-time All-Star is also shooting 49.5 percent on two-pointers, which is on track to be his worst success rate in that category since 2012-13 (44.9). 

As good as Curry has been this season, and James and Antetokounmpo keep playing at a remarkably high level, it's hard to argue anyone is performing better than Durant right now. 

The Nets superstar is leading the NBA in scoring with 29.6 points per game. He's averaging the second-most shots per game of his career (20.5) and is making 52.3 percent of his attempts.