Durant is 24 years old, is in his sixth season and enters the Denver game with 11,078 career points, a total Bryant reached in his eighth season.
Bryant also was on Team USA and last August said he doesn’t believe Durant fully realizes he might someday become the game’s top scorer.
“No,” said a chuckling Bryant, “and I’m damn sure not going to say it.”
Abdul-Jabbar played 20 seasons (1969-89), retired at age 41 and had a career scoring average of 24.6. Durant is in his sixth season and has a career scoring average of 26.5.
Now 65, Abdul-Jabbar attended the Thunder’s 102-90 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night at US Airways Center and smiled when asked if he thought Durant might someday catch him.
“I think he certainly has the talent,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It all depends on if he stays healthy and is the focus of the offense, because he can score from anywhere on the court.”
Abdul-Jabbar also noted Durant’s overall progress each season.
“He’s not just in it to put up numbers,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He wants to win and understands what the game’s about. That always makes me feel better.”
Everyone agrees Durant has a long ways to go to catch Abdul-Jabbar, who led the NBA in scoring his first three seasons, but never thereafter.
“Obviously, Kevin’s off to a good start,” Thunder teammate Nick Collison said. “He’s got all the tools. There’s never been a player like him with his size and his ability to handle the ball and play on the perimeter, and he’s better posting the ball now. He’s got to stay healthy and play a long time, but if there’s a current guy who’s got a shot, he’d be it, for sure.”
Point guard Russell Westbrook didn’t hesitate when asked if Durant could finish at No. 1.
“Oh, he definitely has the ability to be able to do that,” said Westbrook, who also is 24 and has collected 6,772 career points himself. “He (Durant) works hard. He works on his game.
“Plus, he’s 7-foot (tall) as it is, which doesn’t make it any easier for a defender.”