Oklahoma City Thunder forward and lifetime Longhorn Kevin Durant won't play in the season-ending contest for the Thunder on Wednesday night, but he will go down in NBA history.
And not the way that everyone expected him to this season, when he was the favorite entering the year to win a fourth consecutive scoring, something that only two players, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan, had accomplished before him.
Durant will finish just more than a half point per game behind the red-hot Carmelo Anthony, who surged late to pass him, but the lanky scorer known as Durantula will finish with his first 50-40-90 season, the mark for incredible efficiency by shooting better than 50% from the field, 40% from three-point territory, and hitting more than 90% of his free throws.
Steve Nash leads the way with a remarkable four seasons above that mark as the only player who has done it more than twice. Larry Bird did it twice, while Mark Price, Reggie Miller, and Dirk Nowitzki all managed it only one season. Durant is now the youngest player in history at 24 to manage the feat.
How much of a chance does Durant have to reach the plateau again? Pretty strong, as Durant has improved his true shooting percentage every season but one.
To be his size, to be that athletic, to be able to shoot that well, the guy is off the charts. And he's efficient. I think those numbers speak volumes about how efficient he is as a basketball player. This game has not seen anybody like Kevin Durant in its history.
But there is someone Durant has modeled his game after -- legend Larry Bird, whose exclusive club Durant is joining. The two connected early in the season and one thing that Bird has spoken to Durant about that the selfless superstar has tried to further integrate into his game is making his teammates better:
He was one of the main guys that told me he just tried to make his teammates feel good, give them confidence every sHe was one of the main guys that told me he just tried to make his teammates feel good, give them confidence every single day. And I think that's what I'm doing. I think people don't really recognize that...And he's one of those guys that reassured me of that. Every day he was trying to get his teammates to be the best they could, and that's what I try to do.
In watching Durant over the years, the lack of a superstar mentality has always been fun to observe. He works hard, he's humble, he respects the game, and he wants to be a multi-dimensional player.
From his year at Texas, the story that will always stand out is when he went to Rick Barnes and asked to be benched because his defense was subpar, the aspect of his game that lagged far behind the rest of it when he came out of high school. Durant was trying to care, but he didn't really know what he was doing and there was a learning curve.
As if Barnes could have benched the best player in college basketball because he was giving up some baskets here and there, even though he was trying do the right thing.
But the story illustrates just how much Durant has always wanted to be good and scoring efficiently has always been a part of that and something that he has consistently improved upon. And because of that, Mark Jackson is right -- there's never been a player like Durant in the history of the NBA.