Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is the winner of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the 2013-14 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player, the NBA announced today. It is the first MVP award for Durant, who captured his fourth scoring title in five seasons, joining Wilt Chamberlain, George Gervin and Michael Jordan as the only players to accomplish this feat. Despite teammate Russell Westbrook appearing in only 46 games, Durant guided the Thunder to the NBA's second-best record at 59-23.
Durant totaled 1,232 points, including 119 first-place votes, from a panel of 124 voters that consisted of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada as well as an NBA.com MVP fan vote, making for 125 total ballots. For the fifth consecutive season, the NBA and Kia Motors America gave fans the opportunity to submit their votes by ranking their top five choices through a dedicated Web page on NBA.com. The fan vote counted as one vote and was compiled with the 124 media votes to determine the winner. Players were awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five for each third-place vote, three for each fourth-place vote and one for each fifth-place vote received.
The 25 year old Durant averaged 32.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 AST, and a PER of 29.90 while shooting over 50% from the floor. The numbers are gaudy enough, but for an MVP campaign, a player needs a narrative that enables the fans and media to go along for the ride. Durant had several:
- Durant scored at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games, besting Michael Jordan's mark of 40 consecutive games.
- Durant scored over 50 points twice.
- Durant scored over 40 points 14 times.
- Durant scored at least 30 points in 12 consecutive games, which coincided with the injury of Russell Westbrook.
- For the first time in his career, Durant finished with a higher PER than LeBron James.
While most NBA watchers still consider LeBron the gold standard, what Durant has accomplished at age 25 is remarkable because on a performance level, he has chased down James. Durant has risen to the challenges of the season, led his team, and placed them in contention for a championship despite the most uneven season in the Thunder's brief history in OKC.
I would encourage you to read this profile by Jeff Caplan, which chronicles well Durant's rise in the league from a skinny #2 draft pick to the face of the NBA. In particular here though, I simply want to highlight this exchange that Durant had in his rookie season with Brian Davis, who is now the play-by-play announcer for the Thunder:
Brian Davis, a Seattle studio host and sideline reporter who was facing an uncertain future of his own, stepped up to Durant to tell the soon-to-be-named Rookie of the Year how much he'd come to admire him.
"Hey, really enjoyed working with you," said Davis, who as a young radio reporter in Chicago had chronicled Michael Jordan‘s career. "I've got an observation I want to share with you because we may never see each other again: You remind me a lot of Michael. Not your game; you remind me of Michael in the way that you carry yourself."
And then Davis told him this: "Here's the deal: You will be tested, you will be tested. But, if you stay true to your core, your personality, your decency to people, you'll not only have a great career, you'll have a great life."
Durant, all elbows and knees, rose from his chair, tears streaming down his cheeks.
"Oh man," he told Davis, "I've got to give you a hug."
Last season, in a well-publicized Sports Illustrated profile, Durant lamented how it feels to come in second.
"I've been second my whole life. I was the second best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I've been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the finals. I'm tired of being second. I'm not going to settle for that. I'm done with it."
Cross one of those off the list.
Kevin Durant is your MVP.