It seems like one bad playoff performance or a bad stretch of games can affect a player’s legacy. Durant had a tough playoff series against the Boston Celtics, where his scoring efficiency took a hit. Would I like to see Kevin Durant be his usual self against the Boston Celtics? Of course I would. But did his struggles against Boston somehow affect his legacy as a player? To me it doesn’t. Durant is still the best scorer I have ever seen. This year’s playoffs doesn’t take away from what he did in the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals. Or what he did last year against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Playoff struggles? It happens to the best of them. Kobe Bryant struggled against the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Michael Jordan struggled against the 1995 Orlando Magic. LeBron James struggled against the 2011 Dallas Mavericks. Sometimes that happens. Where as a player you run into an opponent you can’t quite figure out. But should that affect your legacy as a player? I don’t think it should.
The truth is that very few players have a perfect NBA career. The only player I can think of who has a near perfect NBA career is Bill Russell. Other than Bill Russell, most of the greats I can think of had some type of huge on court disappointment. But these disappointments don’t really affect how we remember their careers. When we think of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird we think about what made them great. Chamberlain’s scoring abilities. Magic’s passing ability. Bird’s shooting touch. MJ and Kobe’s competitive drive.
We don’t think about the first round playoff loses. We don’t think about the years where they don’t make the playoffs. That gets buried under the accolades and championships.
Legacy is when you are done playing
It’s appropriate to talk about a player’s legacy when they have retired. For guys like Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki the legacy conversation makes sense because they are retired basketball players. Their NBA stories are completed. These guys are done adding to their resumes as players.
But for players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James the conversation doesn’t make sense. At least to me anyways. Sure LeBron James is entering his 20th NBA season, but he still has the opportunity to add to his resume. He still has a chance to bounce back from two disappointing seasons in Los Angeles. Kevin Durant struggled in this year’s playoffs, but can bounce back in the playoffs next year. Same goes for Kyrie Irving.
One year it’s “this will hurt his legacy for sure”. The next year it’s “does this put him in the top 5 all time”. Lets wait until these guys have completed their NBA story before we talk about legacy.
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