Kevin Durant's remarkable series against the Milwaukee Bucks has gone a long way in forcing the basketball world to finally acknowledge that he is the best player in the NBA. He may have lost, but in the end, he came only a few inches short of getting the Brooklyn Nets into the NBA Finals despite injuries to James Harden and Kyrie Irving. In the final three games of the series, Durant averaged 43 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.
It was the sort of solo effort that drew comparisons to apex LeBron James. For years, Durant had been criticized for surrounding himself with some of the best rosters in NBA history, and that prevented many fans from ranking him ahead of James, who had on several occasions displayed the ability to carry weak rosters deep into the playoffs. Durant has now done the same, and with James aging, he is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves.
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But his former head coach has taken things a step further. In an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area's Raj Mathai, Steve Kerr called Durant "the most talented basketball player on earth, if not of all time." That, obviously, raised some questions about his former teammate, Michael Jordan, who is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time. When asked if he truly believed Durant was more talented than Jordan, Kerr confirmed it.
"I think he's more gifted, I really do," Kerr said. "That's saying something, but Kevin is a different ... entirely different breed. He's 6-11 with guard skills, unlimited 3-point range, passing, shot-blocking -- his shot-blocking at the rim, it's just stunning. Watching him this year was really, really gratifying to see."
It should be noted that Kerr is not claiming that Durant is a better or more accomplished player than Jordan, only that his natural gifts are greater. Jordan was five inches shorter than Durant, and while he became an elite all-around player, one could argue that it didn't come as naturally. Jordan is renowned for his work ethic and killer mentality. Even if Durant had more talent, Jordan's intangible qualities may have still made him the superior player.
But as great as Durant is, comparisons to Jordan have often been reserved for his contemporary, James. But James is now 36. He's coming off of an ankle injury, and the league as a whole appears to be more reliant on elite, individual shot-making than ever. James has been such a dominant presence in the NBA for so long that it's difficult to imagine another star replacing him atop the league's hierarchy. But now might be the time for Durant to do so, and in the process, cement his place as one of history's greatest basketball players.