Kevin Durant was the key player in Team USA's 2nd half surge against Argentina last night. After a high scoring 1st half that saw little momentum (or defense), the Americans needed a pure shot of adrenaline to get themselves over the hump against the battle-tested Argentinians.
Durant responded by hitting 5 3-pointers in the 3rd quarter alone, which fueled a 42 point burst that all but put the game away. For the game, Durant had 28 points off of 9-12 shooting, including 8-10 from behind the arc. (As an aside, the more I watch these games, the more I think that the only two guys who should consistently be hoisting 3-pointers are Durant and Carmelo Anthony, and maybe one other guy if he gets hot. The rest should focus on playing better offense).
What really nailed it for me though was Royce Young's headline at Daily Thunder - "Durant goes Rucker Park on Argentina." I think that idea encapsulates the moment for Durant perfectly. Over the summer and almost a year ago to the day, Durant put on a show for the ages, hoisting deeper and deeper 3-pointers, his shooting completely unhindered by anything bound to this mortal coil. Yesterday, he got into the same groove, knocking down shot after shot, which culminated in this moment:
What made the moment, and Young's assessment, so poignant though was that the scoring run was not just about how Durant caught fire, but how the entire team got caught up in the moment as well.
Here is the Rucker Park run (which Young also wrote about last week):
What makes the moment so special is not just the wholly unnatural range that Durant displays has he keeps raining jumpers from further and further out, but how the entire crowd is completely consumed in the escalation of the game. Looking back at the Argentina moment, you can see that Durant's own teammates, guys who are considered the finest basketball specimens in the world, are taken up in the exact same way. Just like the Rucker Park announcer and the hundreds of onlookers knew during Durant's walkup for his final 3-pointer, so too Durant's teammates on the bench knew what was coming. They were expecting him to uncork a shot like that and so they were ready to lose their minds when it perfectly splashed through the net.
In those similar moments we can see the essence of modern day basketball that separates this sport from any other. In no other sport can a single player transcend an entire game to not only create an everlasting memory but propel his team to a higher plane of potential in the process. To be sure we cannot put aside players like Barry Sanders or Luis Pujols, but even they are still dependent on a multitude of factors outside of their control that must work together in order to create a chance at forging iconic history. In basketball though, the player can still rise above it all. Whether it is Jordan, Bird, Kobe, LeBron, or Durant, there are always one or two players at any given time who can make the game their own.
In the process, those moments, regardless of whether we're standing on a blacktop, watching at home, or sitting on a bench 5 feet away, turn us into the one thing we hope for most in or sports - a fan rewarded.