Tuesday, July 23, 2024


For 3 many years we’ve coated many superb basketball characters, however some stand above the remainder—not solely due to their on-court abilities (although these are all the time related), however due to how they influenced and proceed to affect basketball tradition, and thus influenced SLAM. In the meantime, SLAM has additionally modified these gamers’ lives in varied methods, as we’ve documented their careers with traditional covers, legendary images, superb tales, compelling movies and extra. 

We compiled a bunch of people (programming notice: 30 entries, not 30 individuals whole) who imply one thing particular to SLAM and to our viewers. Learn the full record right here and order your copy of SLAM 248, the place this record was initially revealed, right here.

I knew instantly. Even because the phrases have been escaping Kevin Durant’s mouth. It was the spring of 2007, and the 18-year-old Durant was within the combine to be the primary decide within the upcoming NBA Draft. He was tall and lanky, and in a single yr on the College of Texas had flashed his growing scoring chops, averaging 25.8 ppg. The opposite candidate for the primary decide was Greg Oden, who had led a stacked Ohio State workforce to the NCAA title sport and the following large man in a protracted line of subsequent large males. 

For SLAM 110, we had the thought of placing Durant and Oden on the duvet collectively, like a type of outdated boxing posters, a play on the selection NBA groups needed to make. Kevin and his mother confirmed as much as the picture studio simply outdoors Washington, DC, they usually have been sport for our idea, though I bear in mind them wanting to make sure we didn’t body it as KD and Oden not liking each other; they have been rivals, certain, but it surely was a pleasant rivalry between two children who’d performed towards one another on the AAU circuit for years. 

For the duvet story, I made a decision to individually ask Oden and Durant the identical set of questions, as if I have been an NBA workforce conducting pre-draft interviews, after which put their solutions side-by-side, as a option to evaluate and distinction their personalities and mindsets. We’d report, you’d resolve. I interviewed Oden over the telephone whereas he was touring round for pre-draft exercises, and he was completely tremendous to speak with, answering every little thing politely and thoughtfully, saying all the best stuff you would need to hear from a possible No. 1 draft decide. 

The query that cracked the code, not less than for me, was once I requested them every why they need to be the primary total decide. Oden talked about working onerous, being a superb particular person, becoming in and making no matter sacrifices have been wanted for his workforce to win. His reply was completely tremendous.

However once I requested Kevin Durant why he ought to be the primary total decide, he mentioned, “I feel I’ve a profitable mentality. Though I’m younger, I can carry management to a company. I’m simply cold-blooded. I actually don’t care. Whoever’s in entrance of me, I’m going to do my finest to destroy them. Youthful individuals may again down generally, however I feel I’m a troublesome participant and I gained’t again down from something—I settle for challenges. I do know it’s going to be onerous, however every little thing it’s important to face is tough. I’ll be younger, and I’m certain individuals will write me off and say I’m too small or not prepared, however I’ve been going via that my entire life.”

That was once I was sure. What else might you need from a child about to make the leap to the hardest skilled sports activities league out there to him? I’ll take all the boldness you may muster. And on reflection, trying again in any respect the accolades Durant has compiled, from an MVP to 2 rings to a couple Olympic Gold medals, all of us ought to have recognized what was on the horizon. 

The remaining is his story. The Blazers took Oden first total, whereas Durant went to the SuperSonics (who shortly grew to become the Thunder). Kevin Durant fulfilled the guarantees of so many. Throughout a time within the ’00s when basketball was creeping towards changing into positionless, Durant pressed fast-forward on that evolution and made a sequence of recommendations right into a actuality, scoring simply from all three ranges, including protection, ballhandling, turning gamers like Wemby and Chet into archetypes as an alternative of unicorns.

Durant made his journey with SLAM alongside, from the images of him in highschool as an impossibly skinny child to the championship covers. When KD launched his personal podcast, he devoted a whole episode to SLAM. “SLAM was so essential to us as a result of it was all basketball,” he mentioned. 

Right this moment, at 35 years outdated, KD is presently fourth within the NBA at 30.8 ppg and has settled into life within the desert, teaming with Devin Booker and Bradley Beal to kind what ought to be a formidable squad in Phoenix. Durant additionally not too long ago slid into the NBA’s all-time prime 10 in factors scored, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime quickly.

From beginnings that have been considerably unsure, Kevin Durant has greater than made good on the promise he confirmed nearly twenty years in the past when he first appeared in SLAM.

It was written. 

Picture through Getty Photos. Portrait by Rachael Golden.

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