As a 14-time All-Star, NBA champion and successful front office executive, Jerry West’s words hold a lot of clout in basketball circles.
The first-ballot Hall of Famer is, literally, the face and silhouette of the NBA brand. So when The Logo speaks, most typically listen.
And during a recent interview with Sirius XM radio, West threw out an unprompted prediction for Oklahoma City’s brightest star.
“I said this two or three years ago,” West told the station. “If (Kevin Durant) stays healthy, he will break the all-time scoring record in the NBA.”
With his first MVP in hand, Durant has cemented his place among the league’s greats. Thirty players have won the award. Twenty are in the Hall of Fame. The other 10 — with the possible exception of Derrick Rose — are locks to get in once eligible.
So it’s no longer about reaching elite status for Durant. It’s about polishing up a résumé that has already soared to illustrious heights.
Deep playoff runs and a string of titles will do his legacy the most good. But nearly as influential would be a run at some of the NBA’s most sacred scoring records.
Seven years into his career — and only 25 years old — he’s already made a substantial dent. Durant has four scoring titles. The record is 10. He averages 27.4 points per game. The record is 30.1.
But no scoring mark is more coveted than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s seemingly untouchable record of 38,387 career points. It’s a milestone that was cemented 25 years ago and hasn’t really been challenged since. Karl Malone is the next closest, 1,459 points behind. Moses Malone is in seventh place, more than 10,000 away.
But if anyone has a shot at it in the foreseeable future, most would agree it’s Durant.
“For someone that size to have the skill and ability that he has, it’s really remarkable,” West said. “I just don’t see people being able to cover him because of his versatility and shot-making ability. He’s not just a shooter, he’s a shot-maker, a shot-creator.”
Through seven seasons, Durant has 14,851 points, already placing him 132nd all-time. He scored 2,593 points this season, a career-high.
If he could average around 2,500 the next six years — an extremely tall task, but that’s what it’ll likely take during his prime years — he’d be up to nearly 30,000 by his 32nd birthday and 13th year in the league.
That would already put him at sixth all-time, behind only Abdul-Jabbar, Malone, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain.
From there, he’d have the latter stages of his career to accumulate around 9,000 more. A lot will depend on how he ages, but even when the athleticism fades, the shooting touch typically doesn’t. Abdul-Jabbar played until he was 41, averaging more than 1,000 points his last three years.
“I’m going out on a limb,” former NBA player Steve Smith recently said of Durant on TNT. “If he stays healthy, he can maybe catch Kareem.”
“Not Kareem. Not 38 stacks,” a stunned Shaquille O’Neal answered back, referring to thousands. “Thirty-four, not 38.”
For Durant, a daunting task that remains more than a decade away. But not an impossible one, based on what he’s already done and what the game’s legends are already saying about him.