DAN BICKLEY

Enjoy the spectacle of Suns’ Kevin Durant while it lasts

Jan 23, 2024, 2:30 PM | Updated: Jan 24, 2024, 9:05 am

The Valley never reaped the championships promised by Shaquille O’Neal. We never warmed our bones by the bonfire that once raged inside Emmitt Smith, a man who would run through a cement wall if there was a touchdown on the other side.

But we have seen the greatness of Kevin Durant.

My advice? Don’t miss another moment. Take none of it for granted. Don’t wait until it’s too late, like many baseball fans did with the singular greatness of Randy Johnson.

You’ll thank me later.

Waltz backward through a current six-game winning streak, and you’ll see Durant’s fingerprints all over the rising Suns. There was his pep talk to Devin Booker about setting the tone offensively, and how Booker responded with monster games against the Lakers and, later, the Pelicans; the enhanced accountability Durant accepted on defense after discussions with head coach Frank Vogel, whose system has been anything but an easy install in Phoenix; and Durant’s on-court response to that Christmas Day report from Adrian Wojnarowski, the one that drudged up old narratives.

Durant made a couple of startling admissions in a recent interview with The Arizona Republic. He wondered why he wasn’t part of the G.O.A.T. discussion before answering his own question (because he chose to be a frontrunner, signing with the 73-win Warriors); and that he could literally feel the Valley looking at him differently after the Woj report, a fan base that was suddenly fearing the worst from their recently acquired superstar.

Durant has responded with actions, not words. He scored 83 points while playing 81 minutes in back-to-back games at age 35, including a game-winning shot against the Bulls on Monday that came with a profound degree of difficulty. He is bringing a sense of urgency that matches the moment, keenly aware of the criticism that awaits the Big Three if these Suns ultimately fall apart.

His string of other-worldly performances come at a time when the old guard (Durant, Steph Curry, LeBron James) is supposedly passing a torch to a new era of hoop stars. It comes just as the Suns were starting to lose status and the hearts of their audience. And if Durant actually lifts this team to its first championship in 56 years, it might actually be redemption for Golden State. Maybe even Brooklyn.

After all, superstars share many wonderful traits. Most seem to summon greatness when the situation is dire and the moment truly beckons, when his teammates need it the most. And the way Booker ceded the stage to Durant on Monday night was both inspiring and deferential, a concession that seemed to say the following:

Yes, we have three stars playing basketball in Phoenix. But at the moment, there is only one legend.

Enjoy the show while it lasts.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6–10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

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