Which version of Kevin Durant is best?

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Which version of Kevin Durant is best?

We’ve seen multiple versions of Kevin Durant since his second overall selection in 2007.

Now 15 years later and competing in his 11th postseason, Durant has blossomed into one of the most unstoppable scorers basketball has ever seen. But in which jersey has the 12-time All-Star been the greatest iteration of himself so far? We rank each one below.

5. Starting out in Seattle

Ned Dishman / National Basketball Association / Getty
80 34.6 20.3 4.4 2.4 1.0 0.9 28.8 43.0 87.3

Seeing Durant in a SuperSonics jersey is jarring. But the then-rookie was the next big thing for a franchise that knew its future in Seattle was anything but certain.

The Portland Trail Blazers opted to make Greg Oden the No. 1 pick in 2007, but it was Durant who burst onto the NBA scene as a superstar in the making. Durant’s career in Seattle started with an eight-game losing streak. However, the Texas product put up 20.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game during that skid, proving right away that the Sonics landed something special.

Durant ultimately won the 2007-08 Rookie of the Year prize for his stellar campaign, beating fellow first-years Al Horford and Luis Scola in voting as Oden missed the season due to knee issues. With the Sonics missing out on the postseason, the award was arguably a final gift from Durant to the Seattle faithful, who had just learned their longtime franchise would relocate to Oklahoma City the following campaign.

The 33-year-old has repeatedly said over the years that he hopes to see Seattle regain an NBA franchise and would relish being part of the new team’s ownership group.

4. Olympics KD

Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty
22 604 19.8 5.4 3.2 1.2 0.7 50.0 52.9 86.3

Much like we did with LeBron James, we’re only factoring Durant’s numbers at the Olympics for simplicity.

Durant’s impact on Team USA over the years can’t be overstated. In his first call-up at the 2012 London Games, he set a new record for the most points by a player in a single Olympic men’s basketball tournament. He tallied 156 points as the U.S. went 8-0 to win a second consecutive gold medal at the Summer Games.

He then nearly broke his record at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, finishing with 155 points to help the Americans again win gold after posting another 8-0 record. Durant scored just 124 points at the 2020 Tokyo Games, but he also played two fewer contests. His 20.7 points per game that year are still Team USA’s best scoring average at any men’s Olympic basketball tournament.

And it’s not like Durant was padding his numbers against minnows on the international stage. He led all scorers in all three Olympic gold medal finals, recording 30 points against Argentina in 2012, 30 against Serbia in 2016, and 29 against France in 2020. Durant overtook Carmelo Anthony at the most recent event as the leading men’s scorer in U.S. Olympic basketball history, finishing with a combined 435 points over three tournaments – 99 more than Anthony had in four.

3. Dubs dynasty

Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport / Getty
208 34.1 25.8 7.1 5.4 0.8 1.5 38.4 52.4 88.3

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Durant’s decision to play for the Golden State Warriors weeks after they eliminated him from the playoffs still earns him flack in online circles, especially considering the Warriors were coming off a 73-win regular season and just one victory away from back-to-back championships. However, there’s no questioning the individual and team success Durant found in the Bay Area.

While the regular season was more about finding an offensive balance with Golden State’s incumbent star Stephen Curry, Durant was a different beast in the playoffs. He led the squad in scoring in each of their three postseason trips, but in 2019 he topped every NBA playoff performer with 32.3 points to go along with 4.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.1 steals, and a block per game while hitting threes at a 43.8% clip.

The Warriors were already nearly impossible to beat, but they became a generational force with Durant. The team finished with 67, 58, and 57 wins during his three regular seasons in Oakland. They also went 30-13 in the playoffs, easily dispatching LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in two straight Finals. Durant looked primed to deliver the franchise an elusive three-peat, but his Achilles tear in 2019 contributed to the undoing of that objective against the Toronto Raptors.

2. Nets KD

Sarah Stier / Getty Images Sport / Getty
90 35.6 28.7 7.3 6.1 0.8 1.1 40.9 52.5 90.0

It is almost unfathomable that Durant is still as dominant as he is after losing the entire 2019-20 campaign to a torn Achilles. Such an injury usually spells disaster for any player’s career. But Durant returned the next season to put up 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.3 blocks per contest while hitting 45% of his threes and briefly flirting with MVP talk.

Now nearly three years removed from the Finals in which he sustained the injury, Durant looks as if he never missed time at all. His 29.9 points per game this campaign is the most he’s scored over a regular season since winning MVP in 2014. Other injuries have still afflicted him in Brooklyn, like a difficult hamstring issue that cost him two months last season or the sprained MCL that sidelined him for 21 contests earlier this year. But when healthy, Durant has looked like one of the most difficult to contain editions of himself.

The Nets haven’t hit that top gear everyone expected with Durant playing alongside Kyrie Irving and, for a bit, James Harden, though that’s primarily due to circumstances out of Durant’s control. And yet, he nearly took Brooklyn last season to its first conference finals since the franchise relocated from New Jersey, putting up a 48-point performance highlighted by a fourth-quarter buzzer-beater in Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Durant’s foot was barely on the 3-point line, forcing the contest into overtime, where Brooklyn ultimately fell short.

1. Real MVP in OKC

Noah Graham / National Basketball Association / Getty
561 38.2 28.4 7.4 3.9 1.2 1.0 38.7 49.0 88.3

It’s difficult to argue that we’ve seen Durant reach the peaks he did while in Oklahoma City.

The former Thunder star put together eight ridiculous seasons with the franchise after it departed Seattle, earning seven All-Star nods, four scoring titles, and the 2013-14 MVP. That MVP campaign may have been Durant’s greatest spectacle as he averaged a league-high and career-best 32 points and posted 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He also fell just short of joining the 50/40/90 club for a second straight season with shooting splits of 50.3/39.1/87.3.

Oklahoma City made the playoffs in six out of eight seasons during Durant’s tenure. The club missed the postseason in his second NBA campaign and 2014-15 when a foot issue limited him to 27 games. Together with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and Harden, Durant turned a “new” franchise into a perennial playoff threat. The Thunder reached the conference finals on four occasions over their reign and came within three wins of the 2012 NBA championship when the Miami Heat’s Big 3 proved too much for the young club.

A title is the only thing that eluded Durant in Oklahoma City, though it wasn’t for lack of trying.