NBA Will Miss Durant

Nate Levinson, Sports Editor

On March 27, news broke that Oklahoma Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant would miss the remainder of the NBA season due to complications in recovering from a Jones fracture in his right foot, which he suffered in early October of last year. He’s since had bone graft surgery, beginning his long road to recovery.

In the short run, Durant’s injury is a huge bummer because it deprives NBA fans of one of the league’s brightest stars and most marketable players. At full strength, he’s the best pure scorer in the league and forms the most exciting duo in the NBA along with Russell Westbrook. When he returns, Durant will be just a season away from entering unrestricted free agency, and he’ll have plenty to prove. Prior to the injury, Durant’s path toward the Hall of Fame was unquestioned, but now it’s uncertain whether he’ll regain his all-world ability.

Durant had missed just two games in the last three seasons prior to this year, but one misstep has his future in doubt. There are likely still countless people out there who consider Durant to be the heir apparent to LeBron James as the best player in the NBA, but he’s no longer the slam dunk choice he once was. Some of that is due to the emergence of Westbrook and Anthony Davis this season, but a lot of it also has to do with this injury. That Durant initially rushed to get back only to succumb to the pain makes it even scarier.

The potential long-term ramifications of Durant’s injury are frightening. Foot injuries are notoriously difficult to recover from, and far too many athletes have seen their once-promising careers cut short in recent memory. In the NBA, we’ve seen Yao Ming, Greg Oden and Derrick Rose fall from grace after foot and knee ailments. In the NFL, Robert Griffin III may never be the same after injuring his knee, and in the MLB, the Cubs’ Mark Prior and Kerry Wood both flashed tantalizing talent before succumbing to arm injuries.

Basically, there’s no guarantee Durant will ever be the same.

Thankfully, there is a silver lining for Durant. Bill Walton, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ming all saw their careers wrecked by foot injuries, but they were big men whose already limited mobility was zapped by their injury. Durant may be 6’10”, but he’s nothing like those guys. He’s a thin, agile scorer who relies on his lethal jump shot and freak athleticism rather than his footwork around the rim. There are no guarantees, of course, but he’s only 26, and as long as he and the Thunder are cautious with his rehab, he has a good shot at regaining his MVP form.

For what it’s worth, Durant is also optimistic that he’ll return to full strength next season. He wrote on his Instagram account that the injury was just a “small obstacle,” though he also acknowledged that this season has not gone as he envisioned.

I’m also cautiously optimistic that this is all one big overreaction and that Durant will return to MVP form as soon as next season. Basketball is way better off with a healthy Durant leading the Thunder deep into the playoffs and carving a path toward the Hall of Fame. Durant’s long been heralded for his incredible drive and work ethic, but here’s hoping he takes some time off to sit back and get healthy — the NBA needs him.