When you read about Kevin Durant, you see one piece of his origin story over and over again as a reference point for how far the Golden State Warriors star has come. It’s the anecdote about how at the 2007 NBA Combine, Durant, who resembled a bean stalk coming out of Texas, couldn’t finish a single rep of the 185-pound Bench Press test. Durant, who averaged 25.8 points per game in his only season at Texas, admits he had a poor Combine overall, though that didn’t stop him from getting drafted No. 2 by the Seattle SuperSonics.
Durant remembers his Bench Press mishap as more than something to look back and laugh about now that he’s become a superstar in the NBA. He remembers it more as a nightmare.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Durant told ESPN. “All the strength coaches were laughing at me and s—. They were giggling with each other that I couldn’t lift 185 pounds, and I was like, ‘All right, keep laughing. Keep laughing.’ It was a funny thing, because I was the only one that couldn’t lift it and I was struggling to lift it. I was embarrassed at that point, but I’m like, ‘Give me a basketball, please. Give me a ball.'”
Durant is now advocating for top NBA prospects to skip the Combine and to “work out and get better on your own time.” He doesn’t seem to think much of the correlation between what the Combine measures and success at the pro level, and he wishes he had the power back in 2007 to sit out the Combine.
“I knew nobody in that draft could guard me one-on-one,” Durant said. “I knew that for sure. I knew that. And I knew that you don’t need to [bench press] to lift a basketball up. And I knew that this wasn’t football, where that stuff matters. I knew as a basketball player I had a lot of skill, more skill than anybody in the draft. And I knew that if I worked as hard as I could, then that s— wouldn’t matter at the end of the day. It still doesn’t matter. I was ranked the last person in camp, drills-wise. I was the worst player, and the first player didn’t get drafted. That tells you a lot about the significance of that s—.”
Top guys like Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz won’t be at the Combine, so it seems that Durant’s advice is already being heeded. Still, it’s clear that Durant is still affected by his negative experience at the Combine years later, and his story goes to show that, as in the NFL, measurements aren’t everything.
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