Asking Kevin Durant about the importance of the NBA draft combine is like asking rapper Too Short about the importance of being able to freestyle. The legendary rapper with a discography that covers three decades admits he can’t freestyle but he knows how to make successful rap albums and since he’s a professional rapper, that’s the most important thing. As for the combine, yeah it’s cool to say you can touch the top of the backboard, run the 40 as fast as a track star and bench 300 pounds but none of those numbers appear in a basketball game’s boxscore. And that’s why Kevin Durant, who had a nightmarish draft combine experience a decade ago, told ESPN’s Chris Haynes some prospects should, “Stay your ass home, work out and get better on your own time.”
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Durant said. “All the strength coaches were laughing at me and shit. They were giggling with each other that I couldn’t lift 185 pounds, and I was like, ‘All right, keep laughing. Keep laughing.’ It was a funny thing, because I was the only one that couldn’t lift it and I was struggling to lift it. I was embarrassed at that point, but I’m like, ‘Give me a basketball, please. Give me a ball.’”
This would be like a music label laughing at how bad Drake’s not pre-written freestyles are and then Drake saying, give me my cellphone and a some studio time…and maybe a ghostwriter (just kidding!).
“I knew nobody in that draft could guard me one-on-one,” Durant added. “I knew that for sure. I knew that. And I knew that you don’t need to lift weights to lift a basketball up. And I knew that this wasn’t football, where that stuff matters. I knew as a basketball player I had a lot of skill, more skill than anybody in the draft. And I knew that if I worked as hard as I could, then that shit wouldn’t matter at the end of the day. It still doesn’t matter. I was ranked the last person in camp, drills-wise. I was the worst player, and the first player didn’t get drafted. That tells you a lot about the significance of that shit.”
It really does. I’m pretty sure Magic Johnson and Larry Bird wouldn’t impress in a combine. Even a young Michael Jordan seemed like the type to go into a gym and look for the machines in the no-judgement area, instead of hitting the free weights with the muscleheads that wont stop flexing in the mirror. Same with Reggie Miller and guys like Penny Hardaway. I’m pretty sure the average IG model can handle more weights than those guys. But, they had basketball skills and so does Durant, who looks like Penny with Reggie Miller’s shot. And that’s why he thinks the combine is a waste of time and understands why future pros like Lonzo Ball and Malik Monk are staying their ass home.
“They want to just work out.” Durant said. “They don’t want to deal with that B.S., and I understand that. But back then, I wish I would have known the power I had or I probably wouldn’t have done it, either.”
HOW BAD WAS KD?
According to Percy Allen of The Seattle Times, the overall performance of the 6’9, 215 pound Durant ranked 78 out of 80 among prospects! He only had a 33.5 inch vert, which was even less than Greg Oden. As for camp standouts, Rodney Stuckey was ranked 10th, benched 185 14 times, had a higher vert and could run faster than KD. As for big men, Spencer Hawes was there and he was able to do nine reps on the bench. But, reps can’t help you in situations like this.
Here’s a really interesting video of Kevin Durant working out with the team that decided to pass on him with the first pick. During the Blazers workout, KD talked about patterning his game after guys like McGrady, KG and Dirk and saying he knows he’s not as good as Dirk.
He also says he hopes to sign with a shoe company that will make affordable shoes. The company turned out to be Nike with a 7-year, $60 million deal and a $10 million signing bonus, which was less than the reported 70 million with a 12 million bonus offer from Adidas. As for the price of his shoes….well, if $200 is affordable than he got his wish because that’s how much you might have to pay for his latest.
In defense of KD’s thoughts from a decade ago, these were comments from an unproven 19-year old. Here’s what he had to say about the pricing of his shoes at a the KD9 shoe release last summer.
“As humble as I can say it, I’m not a $88 player. I’m an elite player in the league. I wanted everything to be affordable but I knew we had to sacrifice some stuff and I just wanted the fans and the brand to be patient with me and who I am as a player and the level I was trying to go to. With these shoes, you get it all for a nice price.”
So who is KD as a player? How about one who isn’t strong enough to lift 200 pounds but more than strong enough to life a MVP trophy and most likely a NBA championship.