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Kevin Durant | You Can't Guard Him!
TOKYO (Japan) - No player in the USA jersey has ravaged opponents more in the past decade than Kevin Durant.
Since the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010 in Turkey, when he ran roughshod over every opponent to the tournament MVP award, Durant has had no equal.
A 2.08m (6ft 10in) tower of power with a wingspan of 2.25m (7ft 5in), Durant has been - and remains - terrifyingly good. Many would call him the best player in the world.
Durant's length and athleticism prevent defenders from blocking his three-point shot, which he's made at a impressive rate for the American team. And when he's not beating opponents from deep, his ability to put the ball on the deck and attack with those long strides allows him to get to the rim where he's ruthlessly efficient.
It's an oversimplification, though, to call Durant a great three-point shooter and a finisher at the rim because he also strikes from mid-range and scores with floaters.
When teams try to get the ball out of his hands, Durant uses his vision, instinct and overall court awareness to find teammates for buckets.
On defense? Wow!
Durant has quick hands and not only gets his share of steals but also blocks. In the 2012 Olympic team, Durant led the team with five swats and he was second in steals to Chris Paul with 13. It's important to mention the defense because of how it impacts the offense.
The USA often overwhelm the opposition with pressure defense and points off turnovers.
What probably stands out more than anything with the iron-willed Durant is his supreme confidence, which is obvious when he's taking aim from long range.
At the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey, Durant made 26 of 57 shots from three-point range for a 45.6 percent success rate.
At the London Olympics two years later, Durant was even more prolific. He made 34 of 65 from deep for a scintillating 52.3 percent.
In Rio de Janeiro four years later, Durant's efficiency from long range was an even more eye-popping 58.1 percent, when he drilled 25 of 43 attempts.
Jerry Colangelo, the USA Basketball national team managing director, says there has always been a competitive streak in Durant that makes him a perfect fit with the national team. Colangelo saw it when Durant was still a college player.
"I remember meeting him at the (NCAA) Final Four and inviting him to come to our training camp," Colangelo said. "And his eyes were as big as you can imagine. He was so excited and said, 'I'll be there.' He's always had this great enthusiasm for playing USA basketball; for playing the game of basketball. In my opinion, he's been a real warrior."
That enthusiasm came to the fore in 2010, when Durant made a mockery of the suggestions that the USA had sent a B team to the World Cup in Turkey. There were no players from the Olympic gold-medal winning side of 2008 in the team that set out to reach the top of the podium at the World Cup for the first time since 1994.
Durant revealed himself to be the USA's best player. He didn't just lead the team in scoring 22.8 points per game. He set a USA World Cup scoring record with 205 points in nine games.
In the team's moment of truth, a nail biter against Brazil, Durant hit four of six shots from the arc on his way to a game-high 27 points.
No other player in the USA team averaged double digits in points at that World Cup.
He was international basketball's brightest new star.
Durant's scoring and shooting percentage remained superior to the rest of his teammates at both the 2012 and the 2016 Olympics.
At the London Olympics in 2012, with James, Bryant, Anthony and Chris Paul back in the team, Durant was even more deadly from three-point range. He made 34 of 65 from deep, a sparkling 52.3 percent, and led the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game.
In Rio at the 2016 Olympics, Durant for the third time in as many tournaments with the USA led the team in scoring at 19.4 points per game.
His three-point shooting went up to a coruscating 58.1 percent in Brazil. He was 25 of 43 from long range. In the Quarter-Finals, the last national team game played by Argentina legends Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni, Durant upstaged both by making seven of nine from deep and scoring a game-high 27 points in the USA's 105-78 victory.
The competitive drive of Durant is unrivaled, which is just as important as any of his qualities.
How, Colangelo was asked, would playing at the Olympics help Durant in his career?
"What it is, is a love for the game, and fulfilling a continuing dream of being on that court and playing for all the marbles and trying to get a gold medal," Colangelo said. "That's the competitiveness in him."