Is Kevin Durant Starting to Get the Michael Jordan Treatment from Referees?


First, allow me to set some ground rules here. I don’t believe in superstar calls; I believe in superstars who sell calls.

I believe that referees largely blow the whistle according to what they deem a foul. It’s just that some guys are better at snookering gullible refs.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a great basketball factory, but also a fantastic acting class. While the Clippers get so much “Flop City” derision, Thunder products are the most adept at selling contact.

James Harden, now of the Houston Rockets, comes to mind. His self-imposed whiplashing has led to a league-leading free-throw rate. Kevin Martin has already been fined twice by the league for his floppery.

But perhaps the most savvy contact-seller of them is Kevin Durant. Make no mistake, Durant could dominate a game without getting a single call. He’s a transcendent talent and already one of the greatest players of his generation.

He’s also claiming an ungodly 9.3 free throws per game. That’s an incredible number when you consider that KD made his way as an off-the-catch shooter.

He’s not a center, and he doesn’t dominate the ball, yet he gets to the line. Obviously some of that has to do with Durant’s slick, much-improved handle. Some of it has to do with defenders fouling him because they don’t know what else to do against such virtuosity.

A lof it, frankly, is related to how smart Kevin Durant is at selling calls. When KD started using his long arms to intentionally smack under those of his defenders, the league literally changed the rules regarding his “rip-thru” move. Such a foul isn’t considered a shooting offense anymore.

Kevin Durant has since mastered the contrived whiplash that James Harden pioneered. There’s something about the 6’9″ player’s gangly body that allows him to crumble like a Jenga tower. The flurry of long limbs makes Durant appear all the more bumped by an opposing player.

Durant also possesses this impressive ability to flail immediately after losing the ball. It’s a quick conversion of a turnover into free throws. Here’s a slow-mo example that I culled from Sunday night’s overtime victory over the Denver Nuggets:

Durant bobbles and the rock is loose. While it’s possible that Corey Brewer made some contract, I doubt that it was enough to provoke the exaggerated Maggette-flail that Durant emerged with. Either way, it meant free throws for KD.

I’m not doing this to impugn his character or playing style—Kevin Durant’s ability to sell a call is a skill in and of itself. I frankly wish that players and teams that I root for would follow suit.

I’m merely doing this to show that Kevin Durant has mastered some offensive subtleties divorced from simply shooting. The guy is an elite call-seller. Or, if you want to put a harsher tag on it, he’s an elite flopper.