Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant trailed the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony by just six-tenths of a point-per-game for the league's scoring lead heading into the last day of the regular season, with Anthony putting up 28.7 points per contest and Durant averaging 28.1 a night. Durant would have needed to hang 70 points on the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday to pass Anthony for the top spot — unlikely, of course, considering that's 18 points more than his career high and that Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Durant had "no shot" at passing 'Melo. But it's been done before (looking at you, David Robinson) and with Anthony looking likely to sit out the Knicks' season finale against the Atlanta Hawks, it remained a possibility.
Well, Anthony is going to sit on Wednesday ... but, as it turns out, so is KD. The three-time-defending NBA scoring champion told us so himself on Wednesday morning ... in an iPhone note, of which he took a screenshot, which he then posted on Instagram.
Behold the future of reporting:
Durant posted the image with the caption, "Sorry." Yeah, us too, KD. Personally, I like it more when you use Instagram to let us know what your grandma thinks of your potty mouth than to let us know you're not going to fight to retain your scoring crown. But maybe that's just me.
During Wednesday's shootaround, Durant said he'd prefer to play against the Bucks, but that the decision was out of his hands, according to Thunder reporter Randy Renner (via Daily Thunder's Royce Young:)
I definitely don't want to sit out, but the medical staff and coaches thought it'd be a good idea. The community votes against one, so I got to listen. But you know, it's all good — I'm looking forward to watching my teammates play tonight, compete. It'll be good to get a day off and rest. [...]
It would have been fun trying to get it. I don't know if I would have — 70's a lot of points in this league — but, you know, who knows? That would've been cool, but I'm glad we'll just sit this one out and look forward to the playoffs. We do have something to play for, so, you know ... Carmelo had a great end of the season to go take it from me, so you have to tip your hat to that. But just because I didn't win the scoring title, I don't think that means I had a bad year. So it is what it is.
"What it is" amounts to the end of Durant's three-year reign atop the NBA's scoring ranks, and the first scoring title of Anthony's 10-year NBA career ... although, weirdly enough, not the his highest scoring average of his career. That came during the 2006-07 season, when he averaged 28.9 points per game for George Karl's Denver Nuggets. Anthony is the first Knick to win the league scoring title since Bernard King led the league during the 1984-85 season.
Efficiency mavens, of course, will point to a couple of statistics to note that while Anthony's per-game average will finish higher than Durant's, that doesn't mean he's a superior scorer.
For one thing, Durant will end the season with more total points (2,280, tops in the league) than Anthony (1,920, fifth in the league), the fourth straight year he'll have led the league in overall scoring, which is something only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have done before. (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and James Harden all scored more overall points than Anthony.) For another, despite playing 14 more games (81, compared to Anthony's injury-reduced 67), Durant took 56 fewer shots and 80 fewer 3-pointers than Anthony, and finished with significant leads on Anthony in field-goal, 3-point and free-throw percentage.
As a matter of fact, Durant's Wednesday siesta means he'll end the season having made 51 percent of his field goals, 41.6 percent of his long-range tries and a league-leading 90.5 percent of his freebies. That makes him the sixth player since the NBA introduced the 3-point line before the 1979-80 season to join the so-called "50-40-90 Club," alongside Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Price and Reggie Miller. (Seventh, if you want to count Jose Calderon, who had the percentages but not enough free-throw attempts in 2007-08, which would be fine by me.)
The emphasis on increased efficiency has been a hallmark of Durant's sixth season, and he told reporters on Wednesday that it's something he "worked hard every day this season [and] all offseason long" to achieve, according to Renner (again, via Young).
"It's a goal I set before the season, and to see it come alive is something that I'm really proud of," Durant said.
Congrats to Durant and Anthony on their respective milestones. You know what? Go ahead and take the night off, both of you. You deserve it.
Then again, maybe you disagree. Do you think Kevin Durant should have played in the Thunder's final game to try to pass Carmelo Anthony for the scoring lead? Vote here and let us know what you think.