ORLANDO, Fla. — Even if Kevin Durant didn't believe he'd get here, we all knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was only a matter of time.
The Oklahoma City Thunder forward is too brilliant a ballplayer to have not taken his rightful place among the game's all-time greats.
On Sunday, in the 61st NBA All-Star Game, Durant did just that.
The same silky smooth shooting stroke that fans inside Chesapeake Energy Arena have become accustomed to seeing, coupled with growing ability to get to the rim, powered Durant to Most Valuable Player honors as he led the Western Conference to a 152-149 victory over the East inside Amway Center.
Durant became the 46th different player to win the MVP award after scoring a team-high 36 points in 37 minutes.
His name will now be etched on the same trophy earned by legends such as Bob Cousy and Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone and John Stockton, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
“It's just exciting to be named an All-Star, but to step it up another level and become MVP, it's only something that as a kid you dream about,” Durant said. “Coming from where I come from, I didn't think I would be here. Everything has just been a blessing to me…I'm glad I'm taking this back to Oklahoma City.”
Durant, though, didn't just join that elite list. He nearly took a seat at the head of the class.
Durant came six points shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain's 42-point All-Star Game scoring record, set in 1962.
“I didn't know,” Durant said of inching close to the record. “I missed some shots that I thought I should have made, missed a couple free throws.”
Durant scored 13 points in the first quarter, his first shot, a pull-up 3 in transition, coming 43 seconds in. By halftime, Durant sat on 21 points, three shy of the record for points in a half. Another 13-point output in the third period gave Durant 34 through three quarters, leaving him with 12 minutes to get to at least eight points to tie the all-time single game scoring mark.
But Thunder/West coach Scott Brooks had to rest Durant at the start of the final period after playing him the entire third quarter. And by the time Durant checked back in with 7:55 remaining, he barely could get his hands on the ball. He took just two shots in the fourth quarter.
Still, Durant was more than satisfied with winning MVP.
“MVP is something that you want to get in this game, and I'm glad I got it,” he said. “It made me feel better (that) all the guys congratulated me. It's just crazy right now that I can hoist this trophy.”
Durant barely could stop smiling as he sat atop the dais in his postgame interview. Of all his awards and accolades, and there have been plenty, Durant clearly took great pride in this one.
“It's right up there at the top,” Durant said. “As a kid, you dream of playing in an All-Star Game. But to be MVP is another level. I keep saying it, but I'm excited I got it and I'm glad I get to celebrate this with my family and my teammates and everybody in Oklahoma City.
“We'll see if I get another one down the line.”
This, too, we know is only a matter of time.