Is the pride of Prince George’s County, the guy who was named Washington Post All-Met Player of the Year at Montrose Christian just six years ago, the best ’baller to grace a District playground? Ever?
“That means a lot,” Durant said, smiling at the thought. It was Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after he used his 6-foot-10, corn-silk-thin frame to slither through Miami’s defense for 36 points and an Oklahoma City comeback victory in his first NBA Finals game. He thought about the question some more.
“My goal as a kid was to be the best player ever in my area,” Durant said. “That was my first goal before even thinking about going to college or the NBA. So that means a lot to me.”
“But I don’t think I’m up there with those guys — Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing and Adrian Dantley and guys like that yet. I’ve got to keep working and hopefully I’ll get there. That’s always been a goal of mine and hopefully I’ll achieve it.”
As much as I wanted to put him at the top of the pantheon already, the old heads also talked me down.
Morgan Wootten and John Thompson Jr., two of the most influential men in the history of Washington basketball, agree with the humble kid. After all, they saw Elgin Baylor spin D.C. on his fingertips in person.
“It’s almost like trying to evaluate the Triple Crown before the last two legs are run,” Big John said Wednesday morning. “Kevin is being evaluated by others with total bodies of work — at 23 years old, which is saying something.
“The thing about Kevin is, people keep talking about his skill. It’s his heart. He’s got heart to match his skill level. They talk about his numbers and whatnot. But it’s not how many he scores; it’s when he scores. Those buckets at the end of games say more to me about him as a great player than anything.
“But all-time greatest D.C. player? Not yet. Look, you asked me what’s the most amazing thing I saw Elgin Baylor ever do on a basketball court. Everything Elgin did was amazing. Remember, he only played in the league after he had his kneecap taken out. I totally idolized him. He impacted everybody in Washington. Now, Kevin is definitely in the conversation, that’s for sure.”
Wootten, the legendary DeMatha coach, said Durant is on his way to starting-five inclusion, if he’s not already there.
“Kevin is a great one,” Wootten said, “but if I look at our guys in Washington — the greatest five — you have to start with Elgin Baylor. How you get ahead of Elgin, I don’t know.”
Still, Durant in his fifth year has already led the NBA in scoring one more time (three) than Dantley, a 15-year pro, Hall of Famer and the best player Wootten ever coached at DeMatha. Bing was an all-star seven times in his NBA career, but Durant already has made three all-NBA first teams to Bing’s two.
The consensus college player of the year in his only season at Texas, Durant won the NBA rookie of the year award — like Baylor, Bing, Dantley and Reston’s Grant Hill — playing in Seattle before the Sonics packed up and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.