Connect with us

Phoenix Suns

Stephen A. Smith’s bold take on the meaning of this year’s playoffs for Kevin Durant

© Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

A lot, if not all, of the talk surrounding the legacy of Kevin Durant regards him leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder and winning two NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors.

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!

Despite being one of the best scorers the NBA has ever seen, people will always bring this up when talking about Durant.

Now, at age 35, Durant will seek his first championship since Golden State with the Phoenix Suns this season. The Suns open the postseason on Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith made a bold statement on what the playoffs mean for Durant’s legacy on First Take today:

“If we’re gonna talk about legacy with LeBron James, how come we can’t talk about legacy with Kevin Durant? I think that Kevin Durant is a natural-born professional scorer. He’s one of the greatest players you’ve ever seen in NBA history. He’s got two championships. He’s got two NBA Finals MVPs. But that was playing with the ‘Splash Brothers,’ the most elite shooting backcourt the game of basketball has ever seen. Now they needed him to win, because they would not have won without him. And despite the greatness of Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant was still unquestionably the best player on the Golden State Warriors. And at that time, vying for a top-2, top-3 spot as the best player in the game.

But in the end, here’s what it comes down to. Much to the chagrin of his loved ones and him and others who definitely have a problem with me saying this. He hasn’t been out the second round since he departed from Golden State. He never won a title before he arrived. When he departed from Oklahoma City to go to Golden State, it was after they were up 3-1 and gave up a 3-1 lead, lost to the Golden State Warriors in that season that they won 73 games and ultimately lost to LeBron James in the NBA Finals. And three weeks later or so, this man is a member of the team that came back from a 3-1 deficit and beat him, which obviously created a lot of criticism aimed in his direction, led by me unapologetically, I might add.

Then we fast forward, you want to depart from Golden State. And you talked about going there because you just wanted to play the right way. Implying that essentially playing what Russell Westbrook was doing it for you. So you wanted to go to Golden State because you wanted to play the right way. Then you go to Golden State and you got a team that played the right way, plays on the championship level is led by the one of the greatest superstars this game has ever seen in terms of his image, not just his game in Steph Curry. And you depart from him to go to Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving. And while there, y’all got out of the second round, I’m sorry you got out in the first round once. That wasn’t any fault of Kevin Durant. He was absolutely spectacular in that series against Milwaukee that they lost the seven games in the semifinals. And if Kyrie Irving hadn’t got hurt, I believe Brooklyn might have won at all. But nevertheless, it happened.

So now that we look at him collectively, we see everything. The bottom line is this Brooklyn and now you in Phoenix, you lose in the second round last year, you go into this first-round series. If you get bounced out, how will we look at him? It’s not going to be in a good light. Because what have you done since you departed from Steph Curry?”

Even at age 35 and coming off a Achilles tear, Durant still played 75 games this season and averaged the fifth-most points in the NBA at 27.1 per game.

“I don’t know why everyone else was surprised,” general manager James Jones said of Durant. “You don’t become one of the all-time greats by watching basketball. You play it. And he’s a guy that spends every non-practice hour trying to figure out how he can be a better pro. And if you do that, if that’s your life, you get the results that you get. I’m not surprised he played 75 (games), I think he said the other day, like, if it weren’t for someone falling into his knee, he probably would have played this number of games. To be honest with you, if it wasn’t for us and him just being prudent, he’s the guy that would try to play 82 games, because he cherishes every moment on the court.”

Durant has the eighth-most points in NBA history and has proven that he can still play at a high level.

Postseason success outside of the Warriors is definitely a blemish on Durant’s resume, and he could solidify himself as one of the greatest of all time if he is able to lead Phoenix to its first-ever NBA championship.

Losing in the first round would definitely be something to talk about, but anywhere past that especially against the defending-champion Denver Nuggets, who the Suns would play in the second round, is hard to pin solely on how great Durant is.

The Suns finished with a 49-33 record this season and as the sixth seed in the West. They have the roster based on playoff experience to win a championship, so we will see how they end up doing.

Everything the Suns said about the Timberwolves this week

*Get the BEST Phoenix sports insider information, exclusive content, and access to our seasonal magazines! SIGN UP HERE to unlock our premium content!*

Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

More in Phoenix Suns