Nets' Kevin Durant Named 2021 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 17, 2021

TOKYO, JAPAN August 7:    Kevin Durant #7 of the United States high fees with team mates during the France V USA basketball final for men at the Saitama Super Arena during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games on August 7, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant was named the 2021 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year on Friday after leading Team USA to a gold medal in this summer's Tokyo Olympics.

Durant led the United States in scoring (20.7 points per game) as the Americans overcame an early loss to France in the group stage to take the top spot on the podium. KD scored 29 points as the U.S. avenged its prior loss to the French in the Olympic final.

"It's amazing to be honored in this way," Durant said. "First off to represent your country and do it amongst the best athletes in the world, it's an honor. So many great athletes come through USA Basketball and the national teams in general in all sports, and so to be chosen as one of the top athletes is an honor. I'm very grateful for the opportunity and thankful that I received this award."

USA Basketball @usabasketball

The all-time leading scorer in U.S. Men's Olympic basketball history 🙌<br><br>🇺🇸 <a href="https://twitter.com/KDTrey5?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KDTrey5</a> is the 2021 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year!

The 33-year-old Washington, D.C. native earned the award for the third time. He was previously honored after guiding the U.S. to gold in the 2010 FIBA World Championship and shared the award with Carmelo Anthony after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

Durant's presence on this year's roster was particularly important because several of the NBA's biggest stars, including the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, opted against making the trip to Japan for the Games.

"Kevin was an incredible leader for USA Basketball this past summer," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said. "With this being his third Olympics, he had the respect of his teammates, and he clearly is one of the best basketball players in the world. USA Basketball is grateful to Kevin for his time and ongoing commitment to our organization, and we are proud to celebrate him as the 2021 Male Athlete of the Year."

Along with his team-high scoring, the 11-time NBA All-Star also averaged 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 52.9 percent from the field, 37.5 percent on threes and 90.5 percent on free throws.

In addition, Durant delivered the final dagger to France in the championship game, making two free throws with eight seconds remaining to put the rematch out of reach after Rudy Gobert and Co. fought back within three in the final minute.

"As he has done before, Kevin Durant performed brilliantly on the international stage and led the way to another gold medal," U.S. head coach Gregg Popovich said. "I remain awed by his work ethic, leadership and desire to excel."

The extra workload over the summer certainly hasn't slowed down the 2013-14 NBA Most Valuable Player as he's been outstanding for the Nets to put himself in the MVP conversation alongside Curry, the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo and Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic.

Durant is averaging an NBA-leading 29.7 points along with 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists across 27 appearances for the 21-8 Nets, who lead the Eastern Conference despite the continued absence of Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn returns to action Saturday night when it hosts the Orlando Magic at the Barclays Center.