Whose legacy jumps more with a ring: Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard?
Apr 15, 2023, 7:14 AM | Updated: 8:52 am
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
MJ versus LeBron? LeBron versus Kobe? Shaq versus Kobe? Modern NBA versus old school NBA?
Let’s add a more timely, specific one.
Hypothetically, you walk into a bar with your sports friends (or by yourself) for Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
The bartender asks the following question: Whose legacy would take a bigger jump with an NBA championship this year, Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant?
“You put their resume side-by-side, there is a lot of similarities there in what these guys have accomplished. I mean they’re both absolute superstars,” John Gambadoro said on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Thursday.
Here is the visual of those resumes.
Aside from the numbers, a big legacy boost for either player would come from winning a championship with an organization that has never won one.
The Clippers haven’t made the NBA Finals since they were founded in 1970, while the Suns have made the Finals three times since their league debut in 1968.
Leonard won his first ring with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 during the early part of his career, joining Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to win DPOY and Finals MVP in the same year.
Five years later in 2019, he would turn his one-year lease with the Raptors into the franchise’s first-ever championship over the Warriors.
Durant missed the first four games due to a calf injury, and after returning in Game 5, tore his Achilles tendon.
Leonard averaged 28.5 points per game with no other Raptor averaging 20.
If Leonard can go all the way this year with the Clippers, he would join LeBron James, Robert Horry, John Salley and Danny Green as the only players to win a championship with three different teams.
“To win a championship for two organizations that honestly are not considered to be two premier destinations. I mean the Clippers, they are the second most important NBA franchise in their own market!” Dave Burns said on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Thursday. “They have to compete with the Lakers every single day, every single season. For him to win one there, I think the answer is Kawhi. Barely.
“If you are able to close out your career … by winning one with the Raptors and winning one with the Clippers? That’s a nice hook to hang your hat on.”
Durant was unable to win a ring with the Thunder, but he did win rooke of the year and an MVP Award, while also appearing on seven All-Star teams and five All-NBA first teams during a nine-year span — for what that’s worth.
In 2016, Durant shocked the world by joining the reigning 73-win Warriors and immediately won back-to-back championships.
Despite building a championship pedigree, a fan and media narrative is that Durant took the easy way out.
Even though Durant is now surrounded by Devin Booker and Chris Paul, showing he can be the obvious difference-maker between a playoff contender and a championship team (twice) speaks volumes.
“If Kevin Durant wins a championship, he gets out of the shadow of Steph and Klay and Draymond. Where a lot of people think he kind of piggy-backed, got out of Oklahoma City, joined a team that had won a championship,” Gambadoro said.
“They won a championship before he was there, they won a championship after he was there. Even though that guy was the Finals MVP both times, there’s still the belief they would have won it without him.”