Does Kevin Durant have an argument for the greatest scorer of all-time?
Consider the pot stirred.
“I have a ton of respect for James [Harden]. When you start adding in passing as well, he probably creates the most offense bar none in the NBA. But when looking at a scorer and a scorer’s profile, you’re talking about a 7-foot 2-guard … who moves like a 6’4″, 6’5″ player and he can really do everything. He’s a 50-40-90 guy, pretty much in his sleep … It’s not a shot at James Harden at all. I think when you include passing, he’s probably the best offensive creator. But a scorer specifically? In my opinion, KD is the best scorer of all-time.”
“You’re talking about a 7’2 guard, with range out to 35 feet, a handle like a guard… In my opinion, KD is the best scorer of all-time either him or obviously Kareem." pic.twitter.com/4znYj9YWri
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) May 27, 2020
Dinwiddie is in his sixth season with the Nets and has yet to take the floor with Durant – KD is still recovering from an Achilles tear suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals – but that hasn’t stopped Dinwiddie from proclaiming Durant as the game’s greatest bucket-getter.
So, how does Durant stack up against some of the greatest scorers in NBA history? Does he actually have a case for the greatest scorer ever?
Let’s take a look at the numbers, starting with Durant against his current competition and the man who is nearly universally believed to be the best scorer in today’s game, Houston Rockets superstar James Harden.
Dating back to the 2012-13 season, Harden has finished in the top five in scoring in the NBA. In the 2014-15 season, 2015-16 season, and 2016-17 season, he finished second in the league, averaging 27.4 points, 29.0 points, and 29.1 points, respectively.
But those years were just a preview of what was to come.
In 2017-18, Harden won his first scoring title, averaging 30.4 points on the season, before blowing the competition out of the water in 2018-19, when he averaged 36.1 points for the season.
Harden’s 36.1 points per game was the highest single game average since Michael Jordan (who we’ll get to later) averaged 37.1 points in 1986-87, and Harden joined Wilt Chamberlain, Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Rick Barry as the only players in NBA history to average over 35 points for a season.
The Beard also has 23 50-point games in his career, joining Chamberlain (118), Jordan (31) and Bryant (25) as the only players in NBA history with over 20 such games. Before the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harden had scored 50 points five times.
On Nov. 30 against Atlanta, he scored 60 in three quarters, the fourth 60-point game of his career. Again, only Chamberlain (32), Bryant (6) and Jordan (5) have more 60-point games in their careers.
Lastly, Harden is once again leading the league in points this season, averaging 34.4 en route to his third consecutive scoring title. He will become the first player to win three consecutive scoring titles since…Durant!
Perfect segue, anyone?
Harden’s scoring exploits have often made us forget about other current scoring greats, including Durant, who prior to Harden’s emergence was unquestionably the game’s greatest bucketeer.
Durant entered the league in 2007-08, and by the 2009-10 season, he won his first scoring title, averaging 30.1 points that season for Oklahoma City. He would keep the trend going over the next two season, averaging 27.7 in 2010-11, and 28.0 in 2011-12.
Kevin Durant won his first scoring title at 21 years old.
The youngest to do it didn’t stop there, winning three consecutive by the end of the 2011-12 season.
Easy Money been doing this for a decade. 💰 pic.twitter.com/9TvC11yeHs
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 15, 2020
Carmelo Anthony would win the scoring title in 2012-13, before Durant once again claimed the thrown, winning his fourth scoring title by putting up 32.0 a game in 2013-14, joining the same elite company as Harden.
Kevin Durant has won NBA scoring title 4 times. Only players with more:
• Wilt Chamberlain (7)
• Michael Jordan (10) pic.twitter.com/2uZS0o54rW
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 3, 2014
Now, Durant’s scoring began to take a backseat when he joined the Golden State Warriors in 2016-17, after spending his rookie season in Seattle and eight seasons in Oklahoma City as the primary scorer.
In Golden State, he joined the likes of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, meaning the scoring load would now be shared, and since leaving OKC, Durant has not finished in the top five in scoring.
When he finally takes the court for Brooklyn, will Durant once again ascend to the scoring throne?
Only time will tell, considering an Achilles tear is considered one of the most devastating injuries for a basketball player.
However, Dinwiddie also said that if Durant doesn’t come back as the KD of old, he would still be able to perform at the level of another all-time great in Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki.
Spencer Dinwiddie on Kevin Durant: "At 80%, he's Dirk Nowitzki. At 100%, he's the best scorer of all-time. And anywhere in between, he's still a top-three small forward in the league… I don't see a world where he's not one of the elite players in the NBA when he comes back." pic.twitter.com/1ZuvQHEvQR
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 28, 2020
Strong words, Spencer!
Shannon Sharpe, for one, isn’t buying the argument that Durant is a better scorer than Harden, let alone Jordan and Bryant, especially if he doesn’t come back in peak form.
“Have we not seen Kevin Durant healthy? We’ve never seen Kevin Durant average 35 … We’ve never seen him score at the clip that Jordan did … It’s going to be interesting to see what Kevin Durant is coming off of this Achilles injury.”
"I get what Spencer Dinwiddie is trying do, but he went overboard. When healthy, KD hasn't averaged 35 points. Is he a better scorer than MJ, Kobe, or what we've seen from Harden over the last 5 years? No! And to say KD at 80% is better than Dirk is false."
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) May 29, 2020
In terms of Jordan, Durant has a steep hill to climb.
MJ’s 10 scoring titles are the most in NBA history, and from 1986-93, Jordan won 7 in a row. His Airness averaged 30 or more points 9 times and his career average of 30.1 is the highest in NBA history.
What makes Jordan’s perimeter scoring so impressive is that he only had 4 seasons in which he connected on 1 or more 3-pointers per game. For context, in 11 of Durant’s 12 seasons, he’s made at least 1 three per game, and in five of those seasons, he made at least 2 per game. Harden has never made less than 1 three per game in his 11 seasons and over the last 4 seasons, he’s made at least 3 per game.
Still, despite the numbers leaning in Jordan’s favor, and arguably ever so slightly in Harden’s favor, Skip Bayless is looking at the totality of Durant’s scoring package as opposed to just his numbers.
“Back in the days, I was on a show called Cold Pizza when Kevin Durant was at Texas for that one year. I routinely predicted on the air, ‘This guy is going to win multiple scoring titles in the NBA.’ … Now he’s won 4 scoring titles and twice he’s averaged more than 30 points a game for an entire season. We’ve never seen anything like Kevin Durant.”
"Kevin Durant is the best player on the planet. KD is the most talented scorer we've ever seen. Jordan was a supremely talented overachiever, but at 6'6", he wasn't as gifted. Kevin is 7 ft. tall with an 8-foot wingspan." — @RealSkipBayless pic.twitter.com/lKUUCIOCUo
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) May 29, 2020
Also in the equation is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the all-time leader in points. Durant’s greatest rival LeBron James has the third most points in NBA history, followed by the late Bryant at 4th.
Has Durant truly passed those names?
Well, like Harden’s, his career is not over. KD’s still got time to improve the case that Dinwiddie made for him.
But for now, us fans just want to see the Slim Reaper back on the court.