NBA History: 50 best NBA players of the 21st century

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Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

player. 41. . SF. Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant. 5

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 5. Kevin Durant

If not the greatest scorer of this century, Kevin Durant is certainly the most effortless one. He’s listed at 6-foot-9, but in reality, Durant is a 7-footer with the skill set of a two-guard. He can initiate the offense, drill pull-up jumpers from obscene range, or attack downhill and finish with a feathery touch. The unguardable nature of Durant’s jump shot, combined with his not insignificant contributions on defense, make him a worthy recipient of a top-five spot.

Durant has led the NBA in scoring four times since entering the league in 2008. He has done so with remarkable efficiency, both from behind the 3-point line and inside it. Most 30-point scorers are victims of diminishing returns — at a certain point, efficiency declines as volume increases. Durant averaged 32.0 points per game in 2013-14 on 50.3 percent from the field. He is one of the cleanest shooters in the NBA, and given his size, the defense’s efforts to contest are often inconsequential.

So far, Durant has made 11 All-Star appearances in 13 NBA seasons. He won Rookie of the Year in 2008, MVP in 2014, and has won two championships with Golden State. Durant began his career in OKC and even got the Thunder to the Finals in 2012, where they lost to Miami. After OKC’s blown 3-1 lead to Golden State in the 2016 conference finals, however, Durant made the fruitful move to Oakland. He joined the Warriors in free agency and won consecutive titles until a ruptured Achilles dashed hopes of a three-peat in 2019.

Durant has been universally considered the NBA’s second-best player for long stretches of his career. He elevated the Warriors from title contenders to virtually unstoppable. While some may criticize his decision to form a “superteam,” such decisions are commonplace in sports history. Durant earned his two rings and won Finals MVP (over the quite-good-himself Stephen Curry, I might add) in both series. He deserves all the respect this ranking bestows upon him.