By: @FanOfGreen | Anybody who was born in the late 80s or early 90s and watched the NBA probably thinks of Michael Jordan and his era of dominance. Over the last couple of years, I’ve watched and studied Kobe and many of other basketball greats, current and past, and I’d say Kobe is the closest thing to Jordan we’ve ever seen. And although most everyone agrees Jordan is the GOAT, he was a specific style of player. It’s impossible to compare Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, just like it is to compare Jerry West and Bill Russell.
Based strictly on playing style, looking at Bird and Magic, they were both so alike and so different at the same time. Most experts have said King James is more Magic than Michael, (I agree), but I never hear comparisons about Durant. While watching some highlights last night, I couldn’t help but smile thinking how much he reminds me of a certain Indiana State Sycamore who went on to professional fame as the Hick from French Lick. I’ll agree that LBJ and Durant aren’t that similar, especially in the way that Bird and Magic were similar to each other. But when I compare Bird and Durant, I’m surprised at the resemblance.
First, let’s look at the numbers, career per game.
Bird – 24 points, 10 rebounds (8 DEF), 6 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, 49.6% FG, 37.6% 3FG, 88.6%FT
Durant – 26.4 points, 6.7 rebounds (5.8 DEF), 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 1 block, 47% FG, 36.8% 3FG, 88% FT
This season Durant is averaging the same or better in every statistic listed. Most importantly, rebounding (8 total, 7.3 DEF) and assists (4) are much higher, and closer to Bird’s.
If you’re still not convinced by numbers, let’s dive deeper. First, I’ll admit that Durant is quicker, a higher jumper, and has a quicker release, while Bird had absolute cut throat competitiveness and an extremely high basketball IQ. However their playing styles are more what I’m comparing. My first and most obvious point is the lights-out shooting stroke, from set shot, in the post or off the dribble.
Physically, Bird looked more like an over-sized accountant than an elite NBA basketball player. And as for Durant, during pre-draft workouts “Durantula” was rated the 78th-worst player (out of 80) athletically, and couldn’t even bench press the required weight (185 lbs) one time. Even more surprisingly, Durant actually scored worse than Greg Oden during the 3 quarter court sprint and agility drill.
Both players are forwards with good ball handling and one-on-one nightmares in the low block because of their soft touch. Neither are considered lockdown defenders, even though they routinely make key blocks, steals, or big stops in crunch time. All of this, not to mention their passing ability, ice cold clutch genes, and unblockable jumpshots. And one of my favorite things about each of them is their fearlessness when finishing defensive stands by attacking defensive rebounds. Simply put, Larry Bird and Kevin Durant are both ballers.
I’m not going to watch Durant on a transition block and pretend that it’s Bird. And I have ALWAYS admitted offensively that Dirk reminds of me Larry Legend, although Dirk simply doesn’t have the passing or defensive play-making ability that Bird did.
So when I see LBJ and Durant battling it out, I know this is the closest thing we will see to all of those epic matchups between Bird and Magic during the NBA’s Golden Age.
So get your popcorn and enjoy it.
Boston, and all points beyond