Why Kevin Durant is Not The Next Michael Jordan

Erik LandauCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY - APRIL 24: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrates a foul called against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2010 at the Ford Center 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 Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

That's right, Kevin Durant the 6'9'', 230 pound small forward from the University of Texas is not and will not be the next Michael Jordan.

There are many ways we could differentiate the two, but I would say that Durant's style of play is strikingly more similar to a Larry Bird comparison than a Jordan one.

Durant, former Sonics Rookie of the Year can fly through the air, but he also possesses a shooting touch that rivals Reggie Miller's—or even Larry Bird's. At only 230 pounds on a 6'9'' frame, he continues to get stronger, which actually makes him similar to Michael Jordan. Especially in their desires to hit the weight room to minimize the effects of a grueling 82-game season. Yet, Durant's personality is, for the most part, too laid back too truly resemble Jordan.

In the heat of the moment, Durant can shout or let loose physically in a release of pure emotion. Don't be fooled though, Durant won't trash talk like Michael; he lets his play speak for itself.

Therein lies one of the major differences between Durant and Jordan. Michael fed off the criticism or the trash-talking of another player, much like Reggie Miller, who also enjoyed a verbal workout on the court.

Kevin certainly has the physical tools to be an historic all-time great like Reggie, Michael or Larry. What really sets him apart from Michael is his sheer size. In fact, he's closer in build to Bird, who despite his name, rarely flew through the air, relying instead on his jumper and three pointer.

Rebounding will factor heavily into whether Durant wins MVP's or lets the Miami team share it amongst themselves. Durant will need to continue to get bigger so he can challenge on the glass and help limit the other team's three or four extra second chance-opportunities. Unlike Durant, Jordan was never expected to take care of the glass as a 6'6'' shooting guard. He defended the perimeter while Durant will spend much of his career patrolling near the basket.

The defensive responsibilities are a clear difference between them. He will need those MVP's if he wants any chance of being in true comparison with the greats. Oscar Robertson and Kobe Bryant are the only players offhand I can think of with a only a single MVP and a "Greatest Ever" titles following them.

Durant is still a puppy in the NBA and he only just became old enough to buy a beer at 21 years of age. Nevertheless, he still needs to develop a fire in his heart if he wants one day be a basketball great himself. Jordan had it, Kobe has it, Duncan, in his subdued state has it, LeBron, despite his lack of titles, has it, and Durant, I believe, can develop it.

But his development still reflects a man in the mold of Larry Bird. He'll hit the jumper or 3-ball to win the game and break your heart. Jordan, LeBron, Dwyane Wade and others take it to the lane. Is this something that Durant could possibly develop in his game? Yes, he could become a bigger slasher at the ends of games, but his true weapon is his deadly shot. He has more range than Jordan, like Miller or Bird, so in that sense he may have one on Jordan.

Durant doesn't come off as a man who will fight it out, for better or worse. I'm waiting to see how he stands up to a challenge and whether his demeanor differs at all from what I've seen so far. Does he stand up for a teammate and encourage his team? Does he shy away from a fight to ensure he stays in the game? Does he then use the animosity to his advantage? These are questions that can only be answered by further play.

Durant downplayed his most recent contract extension without a hint of arrogance or bravado—something we've grown accustomed to seeing from LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. Michael Jordan himself made his contracts big news by only signing one year/30 Million dollar contracts at the end of his career. To Jordan's credit, he did have to deal with monster-mouse Jerry Krause.

The question remains: can Durant become a cold, hard assassin with the game on the line? When it's crunch time and the ball is in his hands, he is going to need to hit the winner—not look to Russell Westbrook or Jeff Green. Durant will need to line it up and stroke it like the greatest clutch shooters of All-Time.

Reggie, Larry, Jerry West and in some instances Kobe from the deeper regions for a win. Michael stuck to his traditional jumper except for on the rarest of occasions when comparing finishes.

Look, I like Kevin Durant's game and I appreciate that he continues to grow, but his improvements must be tailored for a man who is 6'9'', not 6'6''. He also has duties that encompass a forward, not a guard. He might end up like one of the greats, but it will be #33 he most resembles, not #23.


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