Kevin Durant joined pretty elite company last night when he advanced to a NBA Finals at age 23. Hyperbole has been key, and in the immediate aftermath of something noteworthy, that’s usually the case. For the record, guys, if the over/under on titles for Durant is 4.5 or 5, I’ll take the Under.
But just where does Durant rank in terms of young stars to reach the Finals, and how many titles are within grasp knowing how good he has been?
Using win shares per year for all NBA seasons from age 20 to 23 since 1970, here are the best players by age 23 to reach an NBA Final:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Milwaukee in 1971 at age 23
- LeBron James with Cleveland in 2007 at age 22
- Shaquille O’Neal with Orlando in 1995 at age 22
- Kevin Durant with Oklahoma City in 2012 at age 23
- Tim Duncan with San Antonio in 1999 at age 22
- Dwight Howard with Orlando in 2009 at age 23
- Magic Johnson with the LA Lakers in 1980, 1982, and 1983 at ages 20, 22, and 23
- Kobe Bryant with the LA Lakers in 2000-2002 at ages 21-23
- Hakeem Olajuwon with Houston in 1986 at age 23
- Anfernee Hardaway with Orlando in 1995 at age 22
Those players have a total of 19 titles after age 23, in 98 seasons and counting (including this one for all active players). That’s an average of just over two per player. Abdul-Jabbar won five more after moving to the Lakers; O’Neal won four after moving to Los Angeles then Miami. It’s easy to say that this core of Oklahoma City players will make title runs for years. The only team with two players on this list, Orlando in 1995, had a 22 year old Shaquille O’Neal and a 23 year old Anfernee Hardaway.
I think Durant is going to join the majority and win a title at some point, with a decent chance in just a few weeks. I would still take the under, and think 2.5 to 3.5 would be a more reasonable estimate.
[photo via US Presswire]