Kevin Durant, regular-Joe wunderkind, came down the court and drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key with about 3:30 remaining in last night's Game 5 between Oklahoma City and Denver. Then, on his own, the third-year forward personally outscored Denver 14-6, including his team's final nine points. In that same time, James Harden contributed a three-pointer and Russell Westbrook added a free throw — but really, what we saw last night is the clumsy sentiment people try to convey when they call an athletic performance "Jordanesque." That is, when an athlete decides he or she wants their team to win, and then wills them to win, because, well, because it has been decided as such.
There's a tendency to call Durant some version of "selfless" or "humble" because he is a big-name star playing in a small-name market with a mostly low-profile supporting cast, and because he chose to do that instead of, say, going to South Beach for a bigger contract and a better chance at a title. That's a nice packaged righteous idea, but it ignores the reasoning that in Oklahoma City, Durant has to learn how to be remembered for anything but selflessness. Last night, we saw the learning curve in action: Durant is consenting that he is required to take over games in order for the Thunder to win big ones. "I just wanted to be that guy," he told TNT's Pam Oliver after the game. After three years, he's finally started to accept and to practice that responsibility. It's the desire, I guess, that ultimately makes it seem Jordanesque.
What I love about watching a Durant jump shot is that he hardly needs to get his feet set to unleash one. Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen are legendary for their discipline in this regard; they both can appear to have been rooted to a spot as they pull up, even if they've just barely curled around a screen. Durant always looks like he could have, just as easily, taken another step and driven to the hoop: There's a fluid momentum to his rise and release. He looks like he wishes he didn't have to stop to watch it go in.