Even though there was nothing surprising about Kevin Durant winning the NBA’s regular season MVP award for 2013-2014, there was something quite special about his emotional acceptance speech that brought him and others to tears, and adding to the uniqueness of the moment was him being the first player for the franchise, be it the Seattle Supersonics or the Oklahoma City Thunder, to come up with the award.
There wasn’t any real contest for the prize. Durant got 119 first place votes of the 125 that were cast. LeBron James was a distant second with six first place votes, followed by Blake Griffin and Joakim Noah who were far away at 3rd and 4th. Durant is the first player to win both the MVP and the scoring title since Allen Iverson in the 2000-2001 season, playing for the Philadelphia 76ers and taking them to the final.
In his 7th season, Durant took his scoring, dominance and all-around game to a different level. Russell Westbrook missing so many games might have helped his numbers out, meaning he had to take more shots and have more of the ball in his hands, but there was no ignoring the next step Durant took in his progress as a player, which obviously has been something he’s been aiming to do for quite some time, especially since losing in the NBA finals against the Heat in 2012.
Durant averaged a career high 32 points, 6 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while shooting an effective field goal percentage of 54.7%. While Westbrook was out after his most recent knee surgery, Durant averaged 35 points and 6.3 assists as the Thunder went 20-7. An impressive feat pointing out his consistency (and also his obsession with his own stats) was the 41-game streak of 25 points or more surpassing Michael Jordan’s previous record.
With all due respect to the individual award, Durant is in this to win greater things. One of his goals was obviously to step out of the James shadow who kept the number one spot occupied four times in the last five seasons and probably deserved to be a winner five times in a row. Durant has mentioned more than once about being frustrated with the ‘number 2’ label that’s been on his back since college, and now he finally gets the validation that for one season, he was number one.
Now it’s time to take it to the next level, and finish with that title when it really matters. The Thunder struggled, and Durant as well, as they were drawn to a seven-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. The Clippers already beat the Thunder to open the conference semifinals. Great players, like James had done in the past, come back from these things stronger and better. Durant needs to show that everything he did in the regular season was only the beginning.