ESPN recently ranked the top 74 NBA players of all-time. They ranked Stephen Curry over Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant. Why’d they get it wrong?
In a list of top 74 players of all-time created by ESPN, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant was ranked as the 14th best player of all-time. Noticeably ahead of him was his former teammate, Stephen Curry.
Curry has carved out a very nice career for himself, as he shattered the all-time three-point field goals made record in a season with 402 makes in the 2015-16 season and won his second MVP that season while helping lead the Golden State Warriors to the best record in league history with a 73-9 record.
Curry is undoubtedly the best shooter of all-time, but that alone does not put him above Durant.
Durant is an absolute force on offense, as he can break down all types of defenders with his dribble and blow past them with his size and athleticism to make for some nasty finishes at the rim, post-up defenders, and is in his own right, a very good all-around shooter. What he does with the ball is very unnatural for a guy standing at 6’10”.
Durant has also proven to be valuable on the other side of the ball as well, as he can use his length inside to block shots at the rim or alter them, and also use his lateral quickness to stick with the player he’s defending.
Although Curry has one more regular-season MVP to his name than Durant, Durant has been named to three more All-NBA teams than him, and a huge reason why Curry was placed on a higher pedestal than LeBron James or KD those seasons is that the Warriors were just such an all-around good team, and the proliferation of three-point shooting across the league and the system the Warriors ran gave Curry a green light that nobody else has ever had; allowing him to shatter previously set records.
Credit to Curry for taking advantage of how the game was changing and making his mark. There’s no doubt he deserved those MVPs, but given what Durant had already accomplished up that point in his career including the fact that he came second to LeBron in MVP voting a couple of times in the early 2010s, Durant was still clearly the better player.
Let’s also not forget that LeBron was at his absolute peak in those years when Durant came second, and at minimum, LeBron is a top-two player of all-time.
Durant’s stats in the regular season may not have been what he would’ve liked, but coming in he knew that the Warriors loved moving the ball and stayed away from the iso-game, so he had to sacrifice personal accolades and being the face of a franchise to be a part of the Warriors.
However, Durant knew that in the playoffs things slow down, and you need to show off your game in isolation at times when the games count the most, as he took home both Finals MVPs in 2017 and 2018 and hit the biggest three-point daggers in Game 3 of the series in both years. He also averaged 35.2 points per game on an absurd 55.6 shooting percentage in the 2017 Finals.
The bottom line is that Durant proved to be unfazed by the moment in those Finals runs, but Curry had his moments where he just didn’t show up in these games.
There’s also an argument to be made that the Warriors wouldn’t have won another championship if they didn’t get KD, as they embarrassingly blew a 3-1 lead in 2016, and the rest of the league, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, was catching on to how the Warriors played basketball. However, they were extremely fortunate to keep themselves virtually unbeatable by adding the next best thing to LeBron James.
All in all, both of these players are well on their way to the Hall-of-Fame when all is said and done, but Durant has had way more longevity than Curry and has always handled the spotlight better.