Kevin Durant joined a few fairly exclusive clubs on Wednesday night. With 1:41 remaining in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers, Durant sank this 22-foot jumper off a crossover that shook defender Montrezl Harrell …
… to become:
• only the 44th player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points (48th, when you count players who played in the dearly departed ABA);
• just the fifth player to hit the 20,000-point mark before his 30th birthday, joining the Hall of Fame quartet of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James; and
• at 29 years and 103 days old, the second-youngest player ever to reach 20K, behind only James, who got there back in 2013 at 28 years and 17 days of age.
Kobe Bryant previously sat second in the fastest-to-20,000 race, achieving the feat in 2007 at 29 years and 122 days. Durant entered Wednesday needing 25 points to bump the Mamba down the list; he got there by halftime, shooting a blistering 9 for 10 from the floor to stake the Warriors to a 62-58 halftime lead.
That’s worth a round of applause, I’d say:
Extended standing O for Kevin Durant hitting the 20K mark pic.twitter.com/GfJzfC7uum
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 11, 2018
“Man, that’s some great company, and there’s so many names I never thought I’d be in the same conversation with,” Durant told ESPN’s Chris Haynes before reaching 20,000 career points. “But to know — to have it in numbers, in black and white — to know that you belong in that group is pretty special to me. I’m telling you, man, it’s never been a goal of mine to count how many points I have. That’s not why I play the game. To be under 30 and do it, that’s special to me too. You play in this league for so long, and having an opportunity to do something like this at this age, you just can’t take it for granted, because there’s not too many players on that list.”
Durant’s been one of the sport’s smoothest and most natural scorers ever since he entered the NBA. After joining the Seattle SuperSonics as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, the former Texas standout quickly proved his bucket-getting bona fides, topping 20 points in eight of his first 16 games before scoring a uniform-number-matching 35 in game No. 17, just one month into his pro career. He’s never looked back, averaging 20 points per game or more in all 10 of his NBA seasons and 25 or more every season since his second campaign.
The four-time NBA scoring champion entered Wednesday’s action averaging 25.9 points in 34.7 minutes per game, good for fourth in the league behind James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James. He also remains one of the game’s most efficient high-volume offensive players, shooting 50.1 percent from the field, 39 percent from 3-point range and 89.4 percent from the free-throw line.
After years of work to both perfect his craft and strengthen his 7-foot frame, Durant’s got every shot in the bag now, and he continues to deploy them to terrorize opposing defenders all over the court. With 20,000 points now in the rear-view mirror and age 30 on the horizon, the big question is: How many more can KD pour in before all’s said and done?
“I don’t really care, man, to be honest,” Durant told Anthony Slater of The Athletic this week. “I used to be really big on wanting to be the highest scorer to ever play. But my skills speak for themselves. You just gotta watch. You just can’t look at my numbers and say he’s the greatest scorer because of my numbers.
“You’re going to have to watch and figure out what I did to get these points and to score and to score effectively and also win at the same time. I’m more so interested in that. But I got a long time to play hopefully and I’m just going to keep doing what I do. We’ll see what happens at the end. I don’t want to put a cap on it.”
Of course he doesn’t. When you can score as easily as he can, why would you?
“He can score in his sleep,” teammate Draymond Green told ESPN’s Haynes. “None of this is surprising to me. He can do it all on the court, and this is why he’s on pace to do what he’s going to do real soon.”
And why — with a little luck and good health — Durant looks to be on track to do much, much more in the years to come.
“Thirty thousand? Are you kidding me?” former Warriors adviser, current Clippers consultant and Hall of Fame shooting guard Jerry West told Slater. “If he doesn’t get 30,000, or much more than 30,000, I’d absolutely be shocked. Shocked.”
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