Pip recently had some thoughts about KD and the Nets’ game seven loss to Milwaukee:
“KD, as great as his offense was, it turned out to be his worst enemy because he didn’t know how to play team basketball. He kept trying to go punch for punch.”
“Have you ever seen LeBron take a shot like that? [In reference to the airball KD shot at the end of OT in Game 7] He [LeBron] ain’t gonna take that shot. He’s gonna be smarter. He’s gonna force a double. That’s what KD wasn’t able to do.”
“KD can score better than LeBron, but has he surpassed LeBron? Nah. He tried to beat Milwaukee instead of utilizing his team. You see what I’m saying?”
“LeBron would’ve figured out how to beat them and wouldn’t have been exhausted, and he may not have taken the last shot. LeBron ain’t KD and KD ain’t Lebron.”
Right off the bat, I have to say that we’re not even having this conversation if Kevin Durant’s shoes were one or two sizes smaller. He was literally inches from winning that game with a three pointer in regulation. Instead, his feet were barely on the line, the game went to OT and the Bucks obviously ended up winning.
And it’s also worth noting that Pippen does have a book coming out in November, so there’s probably an element at play here of of getting his name back in the news to promote the book.
But Pippen does kind of have a point here. KD is known as more of a “pure scorer” while LeBron has the better all-around game. KD is known as a guy who excels when he has tons of star power around him, LeBron is known as a guy who makes his teammates better and elevates his teams.
You can say, “Well KD’s Nets teammates were trash in that series, do you really expect him to pass the ball to one of them in the last seconds of game seven?” And that’s a valid point. Who was KD going to pass to? Joe Harris, the best three point shooter in the league during the regular season but shot 8-33 from three in the final five games of that playoff series? Bruce Brown? Blake Griffin? A one-legged James Harden? Jeff Green?
Those aren’t terrible options, honestly. I mean, it could have been a lot worse. But what I think Scottie was getting at is that LeBron would have made it a point, from the opening tip-off, to get his guys going, set them up and feed them throughout the game so that they’re ready and in rhythm in crunch time.
KD was in the mindset of “I have to carry this team and be the whole offense.” He took 36 of Brooklyn’s 84 total shots in game 7. Only 5 guys on Brooklyn attempted a field goal in that game, and KD had as many as 3 of them (Harden, Griffin, Brown) combined. On the flip side, LeBron has played an NBA-record 266 career playoff games and in only two of them has he taken 36 or more shots (in the 2015 Finals game 1 with K-Love out and Kyrie having gone down with injury in OT, he took 38 shots, his most ever in a playoff game, and in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals with both those guys out as well he took 37).
But then right there, you could also say: In 2015, without Kyrie and K-Love, LeBron was basically in the same situation as KD was in against the Bucks, and LeBron shot as much as KD.
Look, we all know that LeBron and KD are two different players. LeBron is a true floor general, who not only plays the game of basketball but controls games with his superior intellect and basketball IQ. LeBron is like a coach on the floor, always telling his guys what to do, where to be, what to expect, etc. Iman Shumpert does the best job of explaining this in this video below, starts around the 3 minute mark:
I don’t know that KD is like that. It’s okay, because I’m not sure any player in the history of the game has ever been as much of a chess-master as LeBron.
But KD doesn’t beat you with his brain. He beats you because he’s just unguardable. He’s a 7-footer with guard skills and and unblockable jump shot. We tend to take for granted just how incredible his game is because we’ve seen him play for the past 14 years now, but if you really stop and think about it, it’s insane: he’s as tall as a center but plays small forward. He has a lethal jump shot, he can get to the rim, he can back you down, fade away–he has all the tools in his toolkit. And he’s 7-feet tall.
It’s unheard of. He should be a lumbering, low-post big man. But he’s not. He’s a wing scorer. He’s truly “one of one” in NBA history. No other player in the history of the game has his combination of size, athleticism and skill.
He’s like a “create-a-player” in 2K: as big as a center but 99 shooting, 99 driving, 99 athleticism. It’s unfair almost. If you were to dream up in your head the most unstoppable basketball player imaginable, the result would be Kevin Durant.
I don’t think it fully computes for us because when we watch KD’s game, we maybe forget how tall he is because nobody as tall as him has ever played that way. It’s completely unprecedented. But we’ve kind of just gotten used to it.
There are only two other guys in NBA history who even come close to the type of “guard skills in a big man’s body” game that KD has: AD and Hakeem Olajuwon.
But even those guys are still considered “big men” who predominantly do/did most of their work in the low post, although AD is a little more rangey than Hakeem was. AD can shoot from outside, but not like Durant. And AD isn’t really beating dudes off the dribble and going ISO like Durant does.
Anyway, the point is, this is what makes Kevin Durant great. He is not the “floor general” like LeBron. He’s a scorer–maybe the purest scorer in the game since MJ. But he’s not the complete package like LeBron is.
But are we really going to hold that against KD? I don’t think it’s fair to KD to compare him to LeBron. We compare KD to LeBron only because KD has been the next-best player in the league behind LeBron for the past decade or so. But KD has never been on LeBron’s level.
Because while KD is an extreme outlier in terms of talent, size and skill–like I said, the most unguardable basketball player imaginable–LeBron is an extreme outlier in his own right. If a mad scientist combined the DNA of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in a lab, the result would be LeBron James. 6′ 9″, 260lbs, can play and defend all 5 positions, has all the tools, and on top of that, next season (barring injury of course) he will become the 7th player in NBA history with 10,000 career assists.
It’s just not fair to compare KD to LeBron.
At this point in his career, after all he’s done, the only fair comparison to make with LeBron is Michael Jordan. That’s it. Those two are in a class of their own.
Kevin Durant, of course, was not just going to be silent while Scottie took shots at him:
“Didn’t the great Scottie pippen refuse to go in the game for the last second shot because he was in his feelings his coach drew up the play for a better shooter??”
In reference to this infamous moment:
Then Durant added this:
In reference to the 1998 offseason in which Pippen was in a contract dispute with management, so he opted to have surgery just before the season instead of right when the last season ended.