Make no doubt about it — Texas is a school that prides itself on the players it produces in its historic football and baseball programs.
But the likes of Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Bobby Layne and Vince Young, and baseball stars Roger Clemens, Burt Hooton and Huston Street might have to make room atop the school’s professional pantheon because Kevin Durant, all 22 years and 230 lanky pounds of him, is about to supplant them all.
This might sound like jumping the gun on a guy who has been in the NBA for just four years, but the way things are going, Durant should end up as the school’s greatest athletic export.
In four years with Seattle and Oklahoma City, he has won Rookie of the Year, has been a two-time NBA All-Star, has twice made an appearance on the All-NBA First Team, was the MVP of the 2010 FIBA World Championships and has won the league’s scoring title two years running, making him the youngest ever to do so.
When Durant was drafted at No. 2 by the SuperSonics — who would later move to OKC and be renamed the Thunder — the team was coming off a previous 31-51 season. He now has them looking like heavyweights for years to come after a surprise trip to the Western Conference Finals.
“Experience is everything and we gained a lot of experience in getting to the conference finals,” he said Saturday at his basketball camp.
Durant will tack on a few more scoring titles and will work his way up the all-time scoring list. His unquenchable desire to improve and to win — he says he trains almost every day of the year — will make him a Hall of Famer.
Former Longhorn pitcher Roger Clemens — 354 major league wins, two-time World Series champ, seven Cy Young Awards, 11-time All-Star, and the 1986 MVP — had this “best from Texas” thing in the bag before allegations of steroid use tainted his legacy. Vince had a shot before things went south in Nashville. Ricky just wanted to smoke pot.
You could make arguments for Earl Campbell or Bobby Layne, as long as you consider that Earl took so many hits he only lasted in the NFL for eight seasons and that Layne played in a time of such minimal media coverage that half the casual sports fans at Texas have only a vague idea of who he is.
That a basketball player could end up being the professional pride of this University, where they used to say fall football and spring football were the only two sports that mattered, would have been scoffed at a mere 10 years ago. But T.J. Ford became the pied piper for star players to attend Texas, and Durant followed suit and compiled an outstanding freshman season, putting up a 26-point, 11-rebound per-game line and winning the Naismath Award, the Wooden Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Adolph F. Rupp Trophy — sorry if this is getting repetitive — the NABC Division I Player of the Year Award and was named the AP College Player of the Year.
“T.J. did something to put the program on the map, and then Kevin nationalized the program because he’s from Washington D.C.,” said incoming point guard Myck Kabongo, a five-star recruit from Canada who was a guest at Durant’s basketball camp this weekend.
Durant has now turned himself into a national brand, with the Nike and Gatorade sponsorships, the backpack, and his uncanny style of play — a 6-foot-9 swingman with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, he can get his shot off whenever he wants. And he hardly ever misses.
If you like to dream big, then maybe even forget the whole “best from Texas” argument — at this rate, Durant could end up as one of the best players in the NBA’s history.
Kabongo declined to say who, between T.J. and Durant, was Texas’ best ever basketball player — maybe out of respect for the point guard brethren — but he did label Durant “phenomenal” and a “trend setter.”
“Trend breaker” might be a better way to describe him. After all, this is supposed to be a football school.