Presumably in response to Kobe Bryant being ranked 25th in this year’s edition of ESPN.com’s #NBARank project, Kevin Durant had something to say:
Players should rate players..just like the nfl do..these analysts never played at this level before! Just being real
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) October 16, 2013
He might be right: I had Nick Collison ranked the fourth best player in the league behind KD, Russell Westbrook and Cliff Robinson (I’ve just always liked Cliff Robinson. Great name.). I also have Sammy Hagar’s Van Halen ranked ahead of David Lee Roth’s in my Van Halen Front Man Power Rankings so as you can see, I’m not to be trusted with ranking things.
KD made his own ranking waves already when he added James Harden to his top 10 list and dropped Dwyane Wade from it. So he’s not shy about lists. He should write for BuzzFeed or something.
But Ethan Sherwood Strauss of TrueHoop had some thoughts on Durant’s thought:
In the past I’d look at a comment like Durant’s and assume he meant that media can’t judge because we lacked visceral experience of what it’s like to jump that high, run that fast or dunk that hard. I’d probably get annoyed because such kinesthetic experience is pretty worthless as basketball commentary. Also, it just sounds like bragging. Yes, I get it, you can do things your critics can’t. You’re the man in the arena, and we’re not. Don’t you get enough praise?
Now I see Durant’s comment as something different. We haven’t studied what he’s studied, read the scouting he’s read, learned the schemes he’s learned. There’s a knowledge gap between us, and KD justifiably believes he’s more informed to make such choices.
I still think he’s wrong that only players can really weigh in. There’s value in the writer’s detachment. We also just flat have more time to think globally about the league as Durant travels the globe. Players might put too much stock in a peer’s ability to perfect a niche skill that they themselves can’t ever seem to add. The impact of, say, defensive big men could get underrated because so few NBA players — they’re mostly guards and wings — can relate as strongly to the role of someone like Omer Asik.
Based on those considerations, combined with the experience of watching players occasionally rank each other, I trust the writers at places like Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and here at ESPN. Durant might react to that with “What does he know?” And the answer to that rhetorical question would be, “Not much, compared to Kevin Durant.”
Like Ethan says, from KD’s perspective, none of us have any idea what’s going on out there. We’re just a bunch of bros and dudes and chicks watching hoops and hoping the round ball goes in that thing with the net hanging off it. What do we know? We haven’t ever guarded LeBron James or had to pull down a rebound in traffic or dunked over a seven-footer. We just watch, and do our best to understand.
It reminds me of Will Leitch’s essay in his book that basically said everybody/nobody is an expert. Because who really knows anything? Some people might be a bit more perceptive and have an ability to translate what they’re seeing into understandable thoughts, but nobody is necessarily been gifted with a higher amount of expertise than anyone else. Some use common sense better than others. Some can remove emotions better than others. Some have had experiences that help educate them on things a bit more. Some do their homework and research. But in terms of actually having an opinion that’s more correct than anyone else, it’s all subjective.
Me though? I’m totally an expert. Please keep reading what I have to say.