OAKLAND – Even with the Golden State Warriors getting stunned by the Clippers on Wednesday night, there were plenty of smiles in the hallway outside their Oracle Arena locker room afterward.
Kevin Durant, the natural born scorer who wore a black t-shirt that read “Genetically Modified” on the back to go with his ripped jeans, had become the second youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 points. And in between the well-wishing, the coaches and teammates who made sure to congratulate one of the game’s great scorers on his latest milestone, the 29-year-old took a few minutes to reflect on the mark with USA TODAY Sports.
The question posed to Durant was simple: Is there any chance he could finish his storied career as the greatest scorer of all time? According to the math, with extreme health and a 25-point-per-game pace, he could end up all alone atop the NBA’s scoring list before his 39th birthday. Whether it’s passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) or perhaps LeBron James if the Cleveland Cavaliers star were to do it first (29,874 and counting for the 33-year-old), there remains a chance that Durant could make this historic push.
Whether he wants to is another question.
Q: So…what do you think? Is it possible?
A: I mean it would be cool to do that, but I’m not concerned about that, man. If I start focusing on that, it’s going to take my focus on what I really want to do. But for me as a player, though, like even if (that sort of mark) is in the back of my mind I know how easy it is to get off what I want to do. I know myself. That’s what I’m saying.
Q: I went back and looked at your year-by-year games played, and it reminded me that your first seven seasons you were an Ironman (he played in 97.1% of regular season games). But the last three have been tough (A Jones fracture in his foot and subsequent surgery cost him 55 games in 2014-15 and he missed a combined 30 in the past two seasons)…
A: Uuuhh, just that one (2014-15 season was tough). I just feel like that one season was tough. Other than that, it was stuff that – somebody fell into my knee (last season). ..You know what I mean? That was a contact injury, so I don’t look at that one as a major thing, but me breaking my foot? I didn’t know where that came from. That’s why I look at that as an injury, but other than that…
Q: Okay then you tell me: Going forward, do you feel like the way you play the game, the way you feel, the way you take care of yourself, do you feel like one of those guys who – if you wanted to – could play until you were 40 years old?
A: Yeah, I feel like I can. I feel like I can. It’s just a matter of me – is my mind ready to play for that long? Because that’s 80 percent of the battle, in my opinion.
Q: Is that part a grind for you now?
A: Is it a grind? No, I mean I’m having fun. I’m enjoying it. I’m still in my 20s, and I’m about to hit the golden year – 30 (laughs). I can’t wait for that. So I’m just excited where I am right now. But I know how exhausting it is mentally to be up every single day for a game, especially when you’re trying to be great at every part of the game. That’s mentally taxing. I’ve got nothing but love and respect dudes who play that long, so we’ll see. I feel like I’m doing something good in the world when I play basketball, so if I keep feeling that way then hopefully I (keep playing).