It's easy to forget that we're just one year removed from Kevin Durant being crowned the NBA's Most Valuable Player because, in the context of 24/7/365 sports consumption, one year tends to feel more like 1,000. (I mean, Luke Ridnour's been on six teams since "You the real MVP.")
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It's true, though. In May of 2014, the panel of voters who decide such things anointed the Oklahoma City Thunder forward the most valuable basketball player in the game. Even the standard caveat that attends such distinction — "But does most valuable really mean best?" — fell by the wayside when LeBron James himself doffed his cap in recognition of the real. Kevin Durant was the baddest man on the planet a scant 16 months ago.
And then his right foot crumbled from the strain of stepping on opponents' necks, and despite Russell Westbrook's best and most unbelievable efforts, the Thunder missed the playoffs. New challengers emerged. The caveat came back, as LeBron regained his throne, even in defeat. Oklahoma City began a new chapter. Everyone moved on.
Everyone, of course, except Kevin Durant, who recently visited with fans in Spain and would like to remind us all that he's still a final boss eager to return to ruining the days and nights of ascendant stars and their adoring fan bases:
"I think we have a really good team," Durant said during an event in Madrid promoting the new edition of his Nike signature sneaker. "We have to come together and play as one, and that's harder than people realize. But we're ready to take on the challenge. We're under the radar, exactly where we want to be, and looking forward to having a good season. And yes, I'm still the best player in the world."
There will be those who disagree with Durant's self-assessment, pointing to the historically remarkable season off of which reigning MVP and NBA champion Stephen Curry's coming, or LeBron's unbelievable work in carrying the injury-laden Cavs to the Finals, or some other more recent data point, while also looking askance at Durant's claims of being 100 percent after being limited to just 27 games last season and undergoing three foot surgeries in six months. These are wholly reasonable perspectives! Foot injuries can be exceptionally nettlesome and persistent, especially for people as large as the definitely-not-6-foot-9-as-he's-listed Durant, and KD's got a whole year of rust to knock off, and those other guys — and teammate Westbrook, and James Harden, and Anthony Davis, and Chris Paul, and so on — are really good.
One of the best things about today's NBA is that there are many defensible choices for these questions; your mileage may vary and your barstool arguments may never end. It's fantastic, though, that Durant's making the statement, simply and plainly, that even after a scuttled season marked by scary surgeries, he remains That Dude. He's unflinchingly convinced that he will dominate games and conversation because that's Plan A and there is no Plan B. No doubt about it. Not even a second thought.
That's awful news for Thunder opponents, but tremendous news for the rest of us. Confidence backed by commitment and rare talent can be an incredibly powerful thing; Harden entered last season calling himself the best all-around player in the NBA, spent the next eight months trying to prove he was precisely that and gave us a season to remember in the process. Durant's proven capable of authoring the same sort of "it ain't bragging if you can back it up" campaign, declaring himself sick of playing second fiddle and promptly taking first chair in his MVP season before having to head into the shop for repairs last season. Count me among those beyond thrilled by the prospect of a refurbished and rededicated KD once again coming out and gunning for that No. 1 spot.
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