It's come down to this.
After 65 games, the race for the 2011-12 scoring title is all up to one final contest each for Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
“Hopefully it's a fun one,” Durant said of the final showdown. “That's what the fans want to see.”
After scoring a game-high 32 points in Tuesday's 118-110 victory over Sacramento, Durant increased his narrow lead over Bryant to .11 points.
The actual averages are 27.97 points for Durant to Bryant's 27.86 points.
Bryant has the advantage of taking the floor last in a Thursday finale at Sacramento, while Durant and the Thunder close the season at home against Denver on Wednesday.
But if Durant scores less than 30, Bryant will have to top Durant’s output by at least seven points. If Durant posts more than 30, Bryant must outscore Durant by at least six. The necessary differential would narrow more the more each player scores. The discrepancy is caused by Bryant playing seven fewer games. The scoring title is determined by scoring average.
“Kobe's an unbelievable scorer, man, and he's having a great season as well,” Durant said. “If it happens, then it's cool. If not, then I'm not worried about it. I'm just going to go out there and play my game. I'm not going to force anything just so I can score more points than Kobe.”
Durant, though, has a chance to join a short list of greats who have captured the scoring crown in three consecutive seasons. Michael Jordan accomplished the feat twice and was the last to do so with a stretch from 1995-98.
Only five others — Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, Neil Johnston, Bob McAdoo and George Gervin — have done it.
Despite maintaining for weeks that a third straight scoring title isn't among his list of desired achievements, Durant did admit that it would be an honor to join that elite group.
“Who wouldn't? But I've always been a guy that never really talked about it,” Durant said. “Of course it's in the back of your mind. We're coming down to the last few games of the season. Of course it'll be cool to win three in a row. But I can't really think about it too much. I don't want to take anything away from the team. It's all about being a part of this team.”
At 23, Durant also would become the youngest player to ever win three straight scoring titles. But Durant said he rarely checks in on his historical exploits.
“I always told myself that once I'm done playing, that's when I'll reflect on what I've done individually,” Durant said. “But with the technology today and Twitter, everybody tells me all the time how close I am to the scoring race and stuff like that. But I just try not to think about it. … Coming into the league, all I really wanted to do was become a player that everybody was going to remember once I'm done.”
“My goal by the time I'm done playing is to be a Hall of Famer,” he said. “Hopefully I do that.”
A third scoring straight scoring title for Durant en route to what is widely projected to be a promising career complete with multiple championships should do the trick.
But, of course, the best scorer of this generation gets the last at-bat. Bryant, though, claims he's not all that interested, calling it “not very important.”
“You guys know I can get it,” Bryant said. “I'm not really tripping about it.”
Who among us believes that?
“Nah, I don't believe him,” Durant said. “That guy, he wants to be No. 1 at everything. I can tell. Just being around him a few times, he wants to be the guy in everything. So of course he cares about the scoring race. It's not a bad thing don't get me wrong because that's the competitive nature of a great player.”
And what about Durant's competitive streak?
“Some things I've got to keep to myself and can't tell you guys,” Durant smiled and said. “I'm the ultimate competitor. That's all I'll say.”