He is on the verge of becoming the second-youngest player in NBA history, behind LeBron James, to reach that milestone and one of just five to have scored that many points before turning 30, along with James, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan in that order.
Durant told ESPN it is a humbling experience but admitted it is difficult to wrap his head around being included with the other greats who have accomplished the feat.
“Man, that’s some great company, and there’s so many names I never thought I’d be in the same conversation with,” Durant said. “But to know — to have it in numbers, in black and white — to know that you belong in that group is pretty special to me. I’m telling you, man, it’s never been a goal of mine to count how many points I have. That’s not why I play the game. To be under 30 and do it, that’s special to me too. You play in this league for so long, and having an opportunity to do something like this at this age, you just can’t take it for granted, because there’s not too many players on that list.”
With the exception of his rookie year, Durant has never posted a season in which he averaged less than 25 points per game. He has averaged more than 30 points per game twice during his 10½ years in the NBA.
Coming out of Texas as a freshman in 2007, he said he never foresaw such a career.
He said he had only short-term objectives, and the first was to be the league’s top rookie.
“I had one goal when I came into the league, and that was for me to win Rookie of the Year, and I just kept building after that,” he said. “My second year, I wanted to average 25. Every year I had a goal, but I never envisioned me with 20,000 points, 30,000 points. I was just taking it a day at a time, just trying to lock in, stay in the moment, and here I am.”
Being sidelined for a week with a right calf strain has allowed Durant ample time to reflect on what this moment truly means. He will become the eighth active player to accumulate 20,000 points, further solidifying his Hall of Fame candidacy.
He said he hasn’t been in a hurry to rush past this moment. He has enjoyed reminiscing about all those battles on the court, all those one-on-one scoring duels and all the ups and downs that ultimately ushered him closer to his latest achievement.
“I reflect a lot to see where I’ve came from and see how much I’ve grown,” he said. “The players I’ve came across as teammates and as opponents that pushed me to be who I am, I think about that all the time. It’s good to reflect. I’ve had some amazing times as a player and so many great moments that equal to these 19,975 points. I just try to remember the special times that brought me to this place, and it’s going to give me more motivation to keep pushing.”
Said Warriors forward Draymond Green: “He can score in his sleep. None of this is surprising to me. He can do it all on the court, and this is why he’s on pace to do what he’s going to do real soon.”
There was a period in Durant’s career when his durability was in question and people wondered if he would ever fulfill his potential. As a pro, he has had a Jones fracture and then a follow-up procedure, suffered multiple ankle injuries, was occasionally bothered by knee soreness and suffered an MCL sprain.
But he said those ordeals “made me stronger and made me a better player.”
“I guess you can look at that at my age, my longevity, and say it’s a sign that I’m still playing at a high level,” he said. “It’s something that’s special, knowing that I’ve been in the league for so long, and I’ve got so much respect as a scorer and as a player, and I don’t want to stop here. I want to keep going and see how far I can take it.”
When he reaches that 20,000-point mark, he said he is not sure how he will react but acknowledged that it will be an occasion he cherishes forever.
“It’s always been about just playing for the love, playing because I just enjoy it and it makes me happy,” Durant said. “Anything in between, it’s just extra to be honest. I’m just thankful for it all.”