After winning the NBA's Most Valuable Player award for the first time in his career, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant appears on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.
Durant, 25, finished second to Heat forward LeBron James in the 2012 and 2013 MVP votes. The five-time All-Star emerged as the MVP favorite this season by averaging a career-high 32 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from deep. Durant led the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating, Win Shares, minutes played, points, field goals, field goal attempts, free throws, free throw attempts and usage rate.
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Additionally, Durant led the Thunder to a 59-23 record, good for second-best in the Western Conference, even though All-Star guard Russell Westbrook was in and out of the lineup all season due to knee injuries. Durant likely solidified his MVP chances when he scored at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games, eclipsing Bulls legend Michael Jordan for the longest such streak during the three-point era. Along the way, Durant tallied a career-high 54 points against the Warriors and 51 points, including a game-winner, against the Raptors. All told, Durant scored at least 40 points in 14 different games this season.
In the Sports Illustrated cover story, Durant is profiled by SI's Chris Ballard, who examines the Thunder star's quest for the only missing piece of hardware in his trophy case: an NBA title.
"Of course, for now there remains a distinction between (Michael) Jordan and Durant. Six distinctions, to be precise," Ballard writes. "And therein lies the hole in Durant's young career, one no manner of scoring titles or individual awards can fill."