Beyond the Bison: Deserve got nothin’ to do with it

Julian Dorey, Senior Writer

Dear Kevin Durant, Please return. Sincerely, Planet Earth.

That’s not a real letter, obviously. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.

In case you’ve been too caught up in the thrilling NFL season and/or the busy holidays and their dog-days of January aftermath, here’s a news flash for you: Kevin Durant is playing out of his damn mind. The Thunder has played almost half its games this season without fellow superstar Russell Westbrook–and Durant has soothingly removed all Thunder fan’s fears as the team awaits Westbrook’s nearing return.

For starters, let’s look at Durant’s NBA Live-like stat-line: 31.3 PPG on a ridiculous 51 percent shooting from the field and over 41 percent from beyond the arc; 7.8 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.5 STL, and 1 BLK. Somewhere, Oscar Robertson is coughing up his coffee onto his morning paper.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Durant’s monster season is something you cannot find in a box score: his emotions behind it. Make no mistake about it, Durant is playing angry. You might wonder, “What the heck could this guy have to be angry about?” After all, he’s a 25-year-old hundred-millionaire and he’s universally regarded at the second best basketball player in the world. But that’s just it … number two.

We all know it’s two-time reigning champion LeBron James that resides in first place. But again, you might wonder, “What’s the big deal? James is older, incredible, and waited his turn just like Durant may be waiting right now.”

Let’s rewind to June 13, 2012. The day before was Game One of the 2012 NBA Finals featuring Durant’s Thunder against the ring-less (at the time) James. The Thunder dominated Game One, and with the instantaneously reacting, overly-judgmental-media world we live in, the next two days before Game Two featured incessant diatribes about Kevin Durant being the best player in the world, the next big thing, and the notion that James was simply a great player who would never be able to live up to the legendary hype.

And then the next four games happened. James was declared the best, Durant and the Thunder were labeled as just a “slight bit” too young, and the next season ended with another title for James and an early exit for a Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City team. Durant was firmly etched in as number two with considerably less hype in a much smaller media market than James’ confines in Miami. And without any semblance of a ring.

This year, Westbrook got nicked up again. And this time, Durant got angry. Known as a soft-spoken player who plays unselfishly to a fault on the court, Durant has destroyed that label and grabbed the bull by the horns. He’s owned the court every night he has stepped on it and his end-to-end play this year is remarkable.

At the moment, the Thunder sit atop the Western Conference standings at 36-10, with Russell Westbrook’s return right around the corner. Without question, this is because of Durant’s brilliant play and leadership. Also without question, Durant would be the run-away MVP award winner if the season ended today.

It’s only February and the Thunder no longer look at the regular season as their place to make a name for themselves. That time comes in the postseason. This year? Good luck slowing down Durant. No one has yet.

Durant doesn’t deserve to be relegated as a side-bar “number two,” so he’s decided to do something about it. Have fun with that, NBA.

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