Posted by Royce Young
ORLANDO -- There are certain boxes a player needs to check off while building an all-time resume. And Kevin Durant just pulled out a big red marker.
The 23-year-old superstar has already accomplished quite a lot in his four-plus NBA seasons. He's won two scoring titles. He's been named to the All-Star team three times, twice as a starter. Been named to three All-NBA teams. He's played in the Western Conference Finals. He won the HORSE competition twice in a row. OK, so that last one's not so prestigious.
But now he's got an All-Star MVP. That's a bunch of checks for a guy that only started driving seven years ago.
Durant took home the trophy with a 36-point, seven-rebound, three-assist performance in the West's 152-149 victory over the East in the 2012 All-Star Game in Orlando. He tied with LeBron James for the game-high in points, but taking nine out of 13 possible votes, Durant took home the award.
"It's just exciting to be named an All-Star, but to step it up another level and become MVP, it's only something that as a kid you dream about," Durant said. "Coming from where I come from, I didn't think I would be here. Everything has just been a blessing to me. I'm excited. I'm glad I'm taking this back to Oklahoma City."
It was obvious early on that Durant was serious about this glorified exhibition game. He attacked often, slowed into his gorgeous pull-up game and became the West's offensive focal point. Which is saying something when you're sharing the floor with Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin.
Durant had 21 points at the half, 34 at the end of the third quarter and when he checked back in with 7:53 left in the fourth quarter, he had a realistic shot at Wilt Chamberlain's 1962 all-time mark of 42 points in an All-Star Game.
"I didn't know. I didn't know," he said about Chamberlain's mark. "But you know, MVP is something that you want to get in this game, and I'm glad I got it. It made me feel better, all the guys congratulated me. It's just crazy now that I can hoist this trophy."
One thing that helped? Durant's coach, Scott Brooks was leading the Western All-Stars, which meant Durant basically could call his own game. He got a game-high 37 minutes and it was pretty clear that he had an eye on that MVP trophy.
"I wasn’t surprised at all,” he said. “Me and Scotty have been talking about this for a couple of weeks.”
Said Brooks about his golden calf: "He just comes in and does his work. He's a tremendous kid as well as you all know. Off the court, he's classy, he's a special teammate. What he does doesn't surprise me other than he did well at the Three-point Shooting Contest last night. That actually surprised me."
The All-Star Game always has an open feel to it and high point total aren't anything to get excited about. That's just part of it. Players have big games, piling up points on easy dunks, layups and open jumpers. But it does say something about who's getting those looks. It's about who's deferring to who, who's taking control. For instance, with Kobe Bryant on the floor with Durant and the East pulling within a point, it was Durant's running floater that put the West back up three. Durant took the most shots (25) and basically controlled the offense. That's the power of the Durantula -- he pushed the Black Mamba aside and owned the game. Not an easy thing to do.
You can say it was a changing of the guard, a passing of the baton or whatever metaphor you feel like working in, but as Kobe set the all-time mark for points in the game, passing Michael Jordan, Durant took home the MVP and was the West's alpha dog. With three games under his belt, Durant's off to a good start. Bryant sits on 271, Durant 186 shy of that and a lot of years ahead of him.
Said Dwyane Wade, “With KD in the league, I don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
Durant has always preferred to stay humble and quiet about his own other-worldly game, choosing to just let his play do his talking. He's never called himself great, never pointed at anything he's done. And even on one of the NBA's biggest stages after winning one of the game's most prestigious pieces of hardware, he still wouldn't just finally admit he's a real superstar.
"I wouldn't say that yet. Hopefully. Hopefully soon I can say that," he said. "Once I grow old, I can tell my kids that I got an All-Star Game trophy."
Trust me, KD. You're going to be telling your kids about a whole lot more trophies than just that one.