Kevin Durant Doesn't Need Any Torch Passed From LeBron and We Should Stop Pretending Otherwise
By Liam McKeone
Kevin Durant's monstrous Game 5 performance against the Milwaukee Bucks is the stuff of legend. With his team's back against the wall, missing one superstar teammate and another hobbled, facing the possibility of going down 3-2 and heading back to Milwaukee, Durant delivered. And then some. He played 48 minutes. He scored 49 points. He had 17 rebounds to go along with 10 assists. It was, simply put, one of the greatest individual playoff performances of all time.
Naturally, Durant's outing sparked a lot of discussion about "legacy." Durant hates this stuff and said as much a few weeks back. But the NBA discussion circles care deeply about this, and thus the highly-paid commentators and studio hosts will cater to that. ESPN did so today, asking if "the torch" of the best player in the league has been passed from LeBron James to KD.
I can see why Durant dislikes all of this so much. He's 32 years-old and firmly established himself as one of the very best the league has to offer a long time ago. He beat LeBron in two Finals appearances, even if he had more help than any star in the NBA in history.
This concept of torch-passing is for young, up-and-coming superstars like Luka Doncic or Jayson Tatum or Zion Williamson. Talking about it in regards to Durant is, frankly, insulting to what he's already accomplished at this level. The passing of the torch signifies a new era of basketball, a player reaching heights nobody thought they could reach. Durant has been around for a long time and doesn't have anything to prove to anybody.
I get why we talk about this. LeBron has reigned atop the mountain as the undisputed best player in the world for what feels like forever. The second that comes into question feels like a landmark moment in NBA history, and "passing the torch" is the easiest metaphor within reach to use as a vehicle for discussion. But the way it's been used in the past doesn't work for how we should be talking about KD.
Durant's superstar performance last night was merely a reminder of what he's capable of. There was nothing new about it, no signifying that this is the new norm. It simply is Durant's capability. It doesn't mean a torch is passed. It means everything we forgot about Durant after he missed a year and change to injury is coming back to the forefront of our minds. To indicate otherwise is just wrong.