Kevin Durant on Kobe Bryant: “He’s the Greatest of All-Time”

kobe-bryantMany fans and players alike agree that Michael Jordan was the greatest NBA player of all-time. His stats and achievements definitely don’t do anything to dissuade this argument either:

– 6-time NBA champion
– 6-time NBA Finals MVP
– 5-time MVP
– 10-time NBA scoring champion
– 30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG

Above all, Jordan was regarded as a fierce competitor who refused to back down or lose. But even with everything that MJ has going for him in the greatest player department, there are some other players who could lay claim to this prestigious billing too. Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant are some of the first names that come up in this debate.

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant recently cast his vote for which of these players he thinks is the best. Durant, who’s definitely our favorite for this year’s MVP award, told Los Angeles Daily Times reporter Mark Medina why he tabs the Black Mamba as the best in a recent interview. Here’s one excerpt from the conversation:

Of course. He’s the greatest of all time. His skill is second to none. Him and [Michael Jordan] are neck and neck as far as skill. You can put in athleticism and be the best passer and strongest and quickest. But it’s about skill. I think that’s how his game is played. That’s why Kobe is the top two best ever in just having skill, footwork, shooting the three, shooting the pull up, posting up, dunking on guys and ball handling. It’s flat out skill. Him and Jordan are 1 and 1A. They’re neck and neck as far as the skills are concerned.”

kevin-durantKobe plays his game no matter what with his intensity and focus and he will play to win. He also will do what he needs to do to get ready to play. If he sees a mismatch, he’ll take it down low and demand the ball. He’s one of those guys who will always bring the same intensity every time no matter who’s on the court.

In another answer, Durant said that he and Bryant have a mutual respect for each other’s games, though there’s a lot of on-court trash talking going on. “We’re going to talk (junk) to each other,” he told Medina. “I think he appreciates that’s how I play. I may be wrong. But I can sense when a guy has that mutual respect. I don’t give a damn who he is. He don’t give a damn who I am. We’re going to go at it. You can throw the names out the door. The guy in front of me, I will try to kick his (butt). He’ll do the same with me.”

Durant obviously looks to Bryant as something of a mentor too since he rehashed calling Bryant at 3 am during the Olympics one night. Stating that Kobe’s a night owl, Durant said he was “picking his (Bryant’s) brain a little bit” about how he should handle certain situations and his teammates during games.

Bryant is definitely a good guy to talk to about anything that’s basketball-related. The 35-year-old has won 5 NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards and two scoring titles. He also boasts career stats of 25.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 4.8 APG. Comparing these numbers to Jordan’s, it’s a little hard to give Kobe the nod as the NBA’s all-time greatest player. But he’s done enough to win Durant’s vote and respect as well.

Speaking of Durant again, if he continues at the current rate, we may one day be throwing his name into the best all-time player debate. After six years in the league, the 25-year-old is really beginning to take flight, averaging 31.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG and 5.6 APG. Durant looks like the front-runner to win the 2014 MVP award, especially since his Thunder are 48-17 and looking like a serious title contender.

Getting through a crowded Western Conference playoffs bracket won’t be any picnic. But if Durant can guide his team to a championship, he’ll move a lot closer to cementing his legacy as one of the NBA’s greatest players.

NBA Power Rankings for March 14th, 2013

dwayne-wadeAt the beginning of February, the top of the NBA looked pretty competitive with several different teams seeming like they could be the league’s best. However, the Miami Heat have easily proven themselves to be number one since then after going on a 20-game winning streak.

This 20-game run is tied for the third best all-time behind the 2007-’08 Houston Rockets (22 games) and the 1971-’72 L.A. Lakers. The latter is arguably the greatest NBA team of all-time, while the ’08 Rockets were ousted in the first round of the NBA playoffs. We suspect that this year’s Miami Heat are more in line with the ’72 Lakers team, which featured Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Pat Riley and Gail Goodrich.

1. Miami Heat (49-14) – A few weeks ago, there was more of a debate between whether the San Antonio Spurs or Heat were the NBA’s beat team. However, as we discussed before, there’s definitely no debate now since the Heat are not only on a historical win streak, but they’ve wrestled the league’s top record away from the Spurs. Interestingly enough, LeBron James’ scoring (26.1 PPG) has dipped to 24.1 PPG over the last 10 contests while Dwayne Wade (21.8 PPG) has poured in 25.0 PPG during the same stretch.

kawhi-leonard2. San Antonio Spurs (49-16) – The Spurs aren’t on the same torrid streak they were on in January. In fact, they’ve been pretty mediocre after going 5-4 lately and losing their last game to the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, San Antonio also beat Oklahoma City by 12 during this stretch and remain in the second spot in our power rankings. Kawhi Leonard continues to make himself a bigger part of this team after scoring 14.5 PPG over the last 10 games. He’s also leading the club with 1.8 SPG and averaging 5.4 RPG.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (48-17) – Oklahoma City has done pretty well in March after going 6-2 this month. Road losses to Denver and San Antonio are the only blemishes during a stretch that also includes victories over the Clippers, Lakers, Knicks, Celtics and Jazz. Russell Westbrook seems to be asserting his role in the offense a little more lately after raising his season-long average of 23.2 PPG to 24.7 PPG over the last 10 games. Unfortunately, the rest of the team doesn’t seem to be scoring as much, but the wins keep coming nonetheless.

4. Memphis Grizzlies (44-19) – How is this even possible? The Grizzlies trade away Rudy Gay – their leading scorer – and win 14 out of 15 games. Ironically, the only team that’s beaten them is during this stretch is the Miami Heat, which is the only club that’s been hotter too. Memphis has played good defense all year and has really stepped things up over the past few weeks. Of course, you have to play strong defense when your leading scorer is only averaging 15.8 PPG (Zach Randolph).

5. L.A. Clippers (45-21) – Los Angeles has provided lots of highlight-reel dunks lately, including DeAndre Jordan’s posterizing of Brandon Knight. deandre-jordanHowever, the insane dunks haven’t really led to more victories in March, and the Clippers are just 3-3 in the past six games. They’ve also dropped home games to the Grizzlies and Thunder during this stretch, which makes it hard to rank them any higher. The schedule does get slightly easier over the next two weeks though.

6. Indiana Pacers (40-24) – Indiana is still holding onto the Eastern Conference’s second seed, despite a challenge from the Knicks. This is a team that does a good job of beating who they’re supposed to – although they’ve had some difficulties with strong teams. They have lost recent games to the Clippers, Celtics and Heat over the past couple weeks. The rest of March looks pretty easy for the Pacers though, and we expect them to increase their lead over New York.

7. Denver Nuggets (44-22) – Ty Lawson is definitely taking the reigns of this team as he’s averaging 21.0 PPG over the past 10 contests. This is up ty-lawsonfrom Lawson’s season average of 17.0 PPG and has really given Denver a boost. Of course, it also helps that Danilo Gallinari (16.4 PPG), Andre Iguodala (12.9 PPG), Kenneth Faried (11.8 PPG), Corey Brewer (11.7 PPG) and Wilson Chandler (11.4 PPG) are scoring in double figures too. There are also three other players who are scoring at least 8.3 PPG or more, giving the Nuggets a very good bench.

8. Brooklyn Nets (38-27) – We don’t particularly think that the Nets have done great lately. But they’ve done well enough to surpass some of the other struggling Eastern Conference playoff teams like New York and Chicago. After losing four out of the past five contests, Brooklyn has rebounded to win four out of the last five games. The next three contests are very winnable too, and the Nets could certainly use some W’s because they’ll be heading out on an eight-game road trip on March 18th.

9. New York Knicks (38-24) – The Knicks have been fading over the past two months and things haven’t gotten much better lately. They lost three out of the past four games and don’t perform well against playoff teams on the road. They were beaten at Denver last night by 23 points, and were dismantled at Golden State by 29 the game before. Carmelo Anthony is really suffering these days since his season average of 27.5 PPG has dipped to 22.1 PPG over the last 10 games.

10. Golden State Warrior (37-29) – Previously this year’s Cinderella story, Golden State had an awful month in February. They lost six straight games at one point and lost 10 out of 13 games from February 5th to March 2nd. Amazingly, the Warriors are still in the thick of the Western Conference race after all this, and they’ve won four out of the last six games. We don’t see the Warriors gaining home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but they could lock down the fifth seed with some strong play.