Does Kevin Durant Have a Chance to Surpass Kobe Bryant?

Faizan QurashiAnalyst IIJune 14, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY - APRIL 30: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers hugs Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder after after the Lakers won Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 30, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The Lakers beat the Thunder 95-94.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

An interesting question brought up on ESPN First Take when discussing Kevin Durant's brilliant Game 1 performance: Can he surpass Kobe Bryant?

Obviously, it was referring to career greatness, as Durant is already ahead of Bryant in terms of the being the better player right now. Only LeBron James is on par with Durant's current greatness. But it still begs the question, can Durant surpass Bryant by the time Durant's career ends?

It's obviously way too early to tell, as Durant is in just his fifth season and is only at the ripe age of 23, but we can still speculate and make an educated prediction. 

Durant has racked up the accolades and accomplishments like no 23-year-old has. He already has three NBA scoring titles under his belt, being the youngest ever to do so. He was a Rookie of the Year, something Bryant never won. He's a three time All-Star, three time All-NBA first team, NBA All-Star Game MVP and finished second this year in MVP voting.

It's safe to say that Durant will be a perennial All-Star for years to come.

Kobe Bryant had the advantage of being in the NBA for six seasons by the time he turned 23. In which time, he was a four-time All-Star, one-time All-NBA first team, two-time All-NBA second team and one-time All-NBA third team. Bryant also made the All-NBA Defensive teams three times and was an All-Star Game MVP.

What really separated Bryant more than any other 23-year-old was the fact that he already had three NBA championships under his belt. However, he was not the Finals MVP for any of those three, as Shaq was the Lakers' best player during that tenure. 

While Durant will not capture three titles like Kobe at 23, he will still put himself in a very good position if he wins a title this year. The OKC Thunder have a serious chance to become a dynasty like Kobe's Lakers, and Durant could rack up the titles pretty soon. 

Talking in terms of the longevity of their careers, Bryant only has one MVP award and just two scoring titles to his credit. Durant, on the other hand, already has three straight scoring titles and will certainly win a couple of MVP awards. Outside of Derrick Rose winning in 2011, it looks like the MVP award will be a two-way battle every year between James and Durant, and Durant is sure to win a couple along the way, as James already has three. 

Accomplishments and accolades aside, Bryant's game wasn't as polished as Durant's is at 23. Bryant was a very streaky shooter in his younger days and didn't develop a potent jumper until Shaq left and the Lakers became Bryant's team.

Durant is way ahead of the curve. He's already got the purest jump shot in basketball. His height at 6'9 compared to Kobe, who is 6'6, is also a big advantage to Durant, as his shot is virtually unblockable. 

Durant's height also makes him a better rebounder than Bryant, as he averaged eight rebounds a game this year and figures to stay around that mark for the better part of his career. His passing has also steadily improved as he averaged a career-high 3.5 assists a game, but playmaking is not his game and shouldn't be—Durant is a flat-out stud scorer. 

He's also a deadly accurate three-point shooter, even better than Bryant is at this stage of his career. His field goal percentage has also improved each year, and he nearly shot 50 percent from the field this season. Bryant, on the other hand, has been a 40-45 percent shooter his entire career. 

All signs point to Durant being on the right track to surpass Bryant. He's got the scoring, accomplishments and accolades, and if he continue to improve each year and capture some titles along the way, then he'll surpass Kobe with ease.

In fact, I think that's the only thing that can hold Durant back, in that he needs to win at least three titles to challenge and eventually surpass Bryant's throne.