COLUMN: Kevin Durant is the superstar we keep forgetting about


Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors raises the MVP trophy after the 2019 NBA All-Star game Feb. 17 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Tribune News Service

The stage was set perfectly on Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina for the 2019 All-Star Game. In its second year under the new format, the All-Star Game rosters were hand-selected by two of the biggest names of the sport, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

James, widely regarded as the greatest basketball player in the world for the better half of his career, was one of two All-Star team captains. The other, Greek sensation and Milwaukee Bucks star, Antetokounmpo, led the charge from the start, becoming the early front-runner for All-Star Game MVP. 

Yet, with his team in a 20-point hole, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant was quietly keeping his team in it.

Along with some stellar shooting help from Damian Lillard in the third quarter, Durant started to take over the game in the second half. While the first half was filled with endless highlights from members of Team Antetokounmpo including Stephen Curry and Khris Middleton, Team LeBron decided to step up the defense in the third quarter. After scoring 95 points in the first two quarters, Team Giannis was limited to just 69 points in the second half.

This allowed Durant to put himself in the driver’s seat of a comeback. The 2012 All-Star Game MVP proved once again why he is in the conversation as the best basketball player in the world. His 31 points were second only to Antetokounmpo’s 38, but Antetokounmpo went cold down the stretch.

Durant did exactly the opposite, shooting 100 percent from the field on four-for-four shooting in the fourth quarter. Even more impressive, three of those four shots were from behind the arc. The 10-time All-Star went on to score 18 of his team-high 31 points in the second half, leading Team LeBron to a 178-164 comeback win. 

Durant's stellar three-point shooting was part of a barrage of long-range shots from his team, which knocked down a remarkable 22 3-pointers in the second half alone. Durant’s performance earned him his second career All-Star Game MVP award.

James, who only scored 19 points, looked the least like his younger self in recent All-Star memory. While he was tied with Kawhi Leonard for the second most points on his team, Antetokounmpo and Paul George combined for 58 points in a losing effort. Khris Middleton, 20 points on six-for-10 shooting from three, even came off the bench to score more than James.

With James more vulnerable than ever in the Western Conference, the question of how long he vacates the throne as the best player in the NBA persists. The All-Star game served as a perfect opportunity for players like Durant and Antetokounmpo to move closer to overthrowing LeBron as the NBA's best.

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