The back-and-forth bar discussions about the greatest basketball player of all-time usually stop and start with Michael Jordan. Most rational basketball fans agree he’s the GOAT, but in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Daily News as part of their profile, Kevin Durant claimed that Kobe Bryant was the greatest ever and Mamba and MJ were “neck and neck as far as skill.”
The Los Angeles Daily News‘ Mark Medina wrote an excellent profile of KD during the Thunder’s home-and-home with the Lakers this week. Medina gets some amazing quotes from the subject of his piece, his coach Scott Brooks and teammate Derek Fisher, who has won five titles with Bryant, and also played with Durant the last two seasons.
It seems Durant has struck up a late-night phone friendship with the Mamba, and his venerated thoughts on Kobe’s skill, especially in comparison to MJ, speak of a deep respect from both sides:
Durant downplayed the MVP race with [LeBron] James, saying, “I want to be known as a winner.” But Durant described himself as a basketball historian, visiting Wikipedia every day to read up on NBA greats, ranging from Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Adrian Dantley and Bryant. And from their time together on one U.S. Olympic team, three joint All-Star appearances and late-night phone calls, Durant strongly credits Bryant’s unspecified feedback for spurring his development.
“He’s the greatest of all time. His skill is second to none. Him and MJ are neck and neck as far as skill,” Durant said. “Kobe is the top two best ever in just having skill, footwork, shooting the 3, shooting the pull-up, posting up, dunking on guys and ball handling. Kobe and Jordan are 1 and 1A.”
Jordan acolytes â€” we’re probably one of them since we came of age when he was winning titles â€” just choked a little bit when they read that KD thinks Mamba and MJ are 1 and 1A. Personally, we think Durant got the order mixed up, but again, this is a generational thing. Durant is more than half a decade younger than us. So while we grew up watching MJ win titles, he grew up watching Bryant win titles (with Shaq, but still), and even played against Bryant near Kobe’s apogee as a leader when he won back-to-back titles with Pau Gasol right as the Thunder were coming into their own as a Western Conference force.
KD continued to wax poetic about Bryant later in the piece:
“When you look at me, Carmelo (Anthony), LeBron and Paul George, what we’ve done out there in this league is nothing compared to what Kobe did,” Durant said. “We live in a world of what have you done for me lately. We don’t remember the day before sometimes. Think back five, six, years ago what he was doing. It’s unheard of.”
But, contrary to all the goofiness off the court, Durant’s inability to get behind the Slim Reaper nickname (kudos!) and the popular assumption he’s a total dork, Durantula will absolutely go at Bryant on the court, and he thinks Kobe respects him more because of it:
“I’m going to go at him when I’m on the court,” Durant said of Bryant. “We’re going to throw elbows and talk trash. We’re going to talk (junk) to each other. I think he appreciates that’s how I play. I may be wrong. But I can sense when a guy has that mutual respect. I don’t give a damn who he is. He don’t give a damn who I am. We’re going to go at it.”
Who can forget KD’s cold-blooded, dare we say Reaper-ish, go-ahead three-pointer against Bryant’s Lakers in the waning seconds of the Western Semifinals in 2012:
Or Kobe’s hounding defense at the top of the key on KD back in December this season, during the brief window Kobe was healthy:
We love that KD and Mamba are late night text buddies and still go out and try to slit each other throatson the court. But we still think MJ is the GOAT, and probably always will feel that way while recognizing there’s a generational disconnect at play here, more than anything.
Yawn, for the billionth time, who’s better: Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant?
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