And he's perfectly fine with that.
Speaking with reporters less than 24 hours removed from the Oklahoma City Thunder being eliminated from the postseason by the Memphis Grizzlies, Durant had a message for any cynics preparing to jump off his bandwagon.
“I don’t give a damn. I’m going to be who I’m going to be,” Durant said (via Royce Young of Daily Thunder). “I’m not Kobe Bryant. I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m not LeBron James. I’m not Magic Johnson. I’m me."
"I’m not ever going to compromise myself and my integrity and what I believe in for winning some basketball games or winning a championship," he added.
Durant was responding to criticism of his belief that this season wasn't a "wasted year." Players like Kobe and MJ have conditioned the general public, and most of the NBA's inhabitants, to believe that any campaign which fails to culminate in a title is a lost season.
But Durant didn't see it that way. He instead paid homage to his teammates and the city he represents. And he made it clear he had benefited from the season's events.
“I’ve grown so much as a man since the beginning of the season," he said. "I’ve grown so much as a leader. Nothing is ever wasted."
Not everyone is staring through the same looking glass as Durant, though. Winning is supposed to mean everything. Personal, or even collective growth, means nothing.
Just look at Kobe. Would he have five championship rings if he didn't believe every year gone without a championship was a tragedy? Would Jordan have six? Would Magic have five? Would LeBron have his one?
Just look at them. Then look back at Durant. He's not them. If that's his greatest flaw, then so be it.
Durant's Thunder may have fallen well short of their desired goal, and Durant may have proved he's no LeBron, but he still left his mark.
He became just the 31st player (via basketball-reference.com) in league history to log at least 44 minutes per game through 10 same-season playoff contests. And he was the first player in NBA history to exit with averages of at least 30 points, nine rebounds, six assists and one block.
He still left everything on the floor. For that, he should have no regrets. And he doesn't.
"I enjoy playing the game, I enjoy being here, but I’m never come out to the media and say I wasted a year because we lost a championship," Durant reiterated. "Like I said, I don’t have to be Kobe Bryant.”
He doesn't have to be. He's Kevin Durant, one of the most diligent athletes to ever play the game.
Failing to appreciate that would be the real tragedy.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!