Kevin Durant Enters Michael Jordan Territory with 4th Scoring Title in 5 Years

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant gestures following a basket in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki

Kevin Durant has a long way to go before the Michael Jordan comparisons can begin in earnest, but he's already setting himself apart from the crowd of iconic scorers to go before him.

The elite company speaks for itself. The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar is coming off a career-best 32-point-per-game average. Keeping up at that pace will be difficult in future seasons assuming Russell Westbrook is healthier. But it still is hard to see many challengers who will flirt with 30 points per game.

Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player (besides Jordan) to win the scoring title seven straight times. MJ still has the most scoring titles of anyone at 10.

In a league that includes LeBron James, 2012-13 scoring champ Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, there are a number of prolific scorers with whom KD must contend going forward. But the last time a player scored 32 or more points per game was in 2005-06 when Kobe Bryant averaged 35.4.

And there have certainly been times this season when Durant seemed capable of putting up a similarly gaudy 35-point average. Unfortunately, the Thunder are good enough that Durant actually gets some rest from time to time, barring him from even more freakish scoring feats. But even with that rest and even with the competition, there's nothing stopping the 25-year-old from achieving Jordan-like longevity.

Matching the total production is another story. At his scoring peak, MJ averaged 37.1 a game.

Then again, head coach Scott Brooks indicated in March that KD could score even more if he really wanted to (per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin): "Let's face it: If he wanted to score a bunch of points or more than he's scoring now, he really could do that. His assist level has gone up, he impacts the game. Defensively, he impacts the game. He can guard 1 through 5. So a lot of things that he does [are] all about the team."

There have been some memorable single-game performances throughout Durant's MVP-favorite season, including two games in which he exceeded 50 points (51 against Toronto in March, 54 against Golden State in January). He also posted 46, 48 and 48 again in January alone. He scored 30 or more in 12 straight games this season, 25 or more points in 41 straight—both rare and historic accomplishments.

And yet, none of that scoring will count for much unless OKC makes it back to the NBA Finals.

The Thunder face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round and won the regular season against them, 2-1. So long as Durant and Westbrook remain healthy, the Thunder will remain favorites to return to the conference finals—if not go all the way.

But Brooks' team will face challenges along the way, especially if it faces the high-octane Los Angeles Clippers in the second round. Should that matchup go down, OKC will need every last point out of Durant.


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