|Kevin Durant is the NBA's scoring champion for the third straight season after Kobe Bryant elected to sit. (Getty Images)|
Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant has won his third consecutive NBA scoring title, averaging 28.0 points per game for the 2011-2012 NBA season. Durant narrowly beat out Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant, who finished the year averaging 27.9 points per game.
Durant, 23, becomes the youngest player in NBA history to win three consecutive scoring titles. He averaged 27.7 points per game in 2010-2011 and 30.1 points per game in 2009-2010.
Durant played in all 66 of the Thunder's games this year, scoring a league-best 1850 points. He also led the NBA in field goals made (643), free throws made (431) and total minutes played (2546).
"I think this was probably my best year as an individual," Durant told CBSSports.com's Royce Young on Wednesday night. "More efficient, from the 3, from the field. Free throws were a little down. I passed the ball better, I had turnovers, but I passed the ball better. I rebounded. I think this is one of my better years, probably my best one. If I don't win any awards that's cool with me. I just want to grow as a player. Hopefully they start to come later in my career."
Durant is considered the leading candidate for the 2012 NBA MVP award aside from Miami Heat All-Star forward LeBron James, the prohibitive favorite. He was named Western Conference Player of the Month in February and March. His Thunder finished the season as the Western Conference's No. 2 seed and are set to begin their first round playoff series against the No. 7 seed Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
Bryant could have surpassed Durant had he scored 38 points or more in the Lakers season finale against the SacramentoKings on Thursday night, but he elected to sit out the game. The Lakers had already clinched the Pacific Division title and are the Western Conference's No. 3 seed, set to host the No. 6 seed Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of their first round playoff series on Sunday.
ESPNLA.com reported that Bryant said that he was unconcerned with the scoring title chase following Lakers shootaround on Thursday morning.
"The scoring title is not that important. We know I can do it. We know I can go out and score 38 points. The most important thing is sending the right message to the group, which is putting a championship above all else. That means rest. That means letting other guys play. That means us getting ready for Sunday [for the playoff opener]."Bryant, 33, played 58 games for the Lakers this season, shooting 43.0 percent from the field. He led the NBA in scoring during the 2005-2006 season (35.4 points per game) and the 2006-2007 season (31.6 points per game). This season, Bryant moved into the No. 5 position on the NBA's All-Time scoring list.