Sam Smith, as reputable as any NBA writer the last 20 years, reported a couple of weeks ago on some whispers around the league that Kevin Durant eventually could be a better ballplayer than LeBron James. Interesting theory. I don’t know if I buy it, but it sure is fun to think about. Durant is a wondrous talent; a 6-foot-10 shooting whiz who also can run and jump and do all kinds of things in the open court. Truth is, Durant ranks with LeBron and Kevin Garnett (when healthy) and Dirk Nowitzki as the NBA’s most unique players. There’s really no one else in the league like any of them. But the NBA’s television networks don’t buy the Durant-might-pass-LeBron idea. If TNT or ESPN/ABC believed that Durant was the second coming of King James, your Oklahoma City Thunder would not have just one measly national telecast this coming season. ESPN plans to show the Thunder when it hosts Dallas on Dec. 16. Two other OKC games are set for NBATV, but it’s a stretch to call them national telecasts. NBATV is the MySpace to TNT’s and ESPN’s Facebook. If the basketball minds at TNT and ESPN believed that Durant was driving down LeBron Boulevard, the Thunder would get more than a token appearance. I know it’s a hard sell to telecast a franchise that has won 43 games combined the last two years. It’s a crowded market. Lakers, Celtics, Cavaliers, Magic, Bulls, Spurs, Suns, Nuggets, Hornets, Jazz, Rockets, Mavericks, Heat. The league is full of marquee teams with superstar players. Three factors equate to TV favor: team success, star power and market size. I would rank them in that order. The networks will repeatedly spotlight a small market team that wins. Orlando has 24 ESPN or TNT games scheduled this season; San Antonio has 20. But the NBA is a star-driven league. If you don’t believe it, check out the Clippers, who now sport Blake Griffin. The woeful Clips have eight national-TV games this season, and on NBA.com’s home page Tuesday, the display announcing the release of the 2009-10 schedule was a Rushmore collection of Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O’Neal and Blake Griffin. Make no mistake. No matter how much praise is lopped Durant’s way from Mike Krzyzewski or Sam Smith, the Thunder wonder has a long way to go to register on the national scale. Five franchises failed to get any ESPN or TNT telecasts: New Jersey, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Sacramento and (inexplicably) Houston. Oklahoma City is lumped in with Minnesota, Indiana, Memphis and Toronto, who each get one national game. Washington and Golden State get eight each. The largely faceless Hawks get seven. The awful Knickerbockers five. Kevin Durant gets one. If the network decision-makers believed he was about to challenge LeBron James’ dominance, the Thunder wouldn’t be tied with Memphis for national television exposure. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.