OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant, the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP, told ESPN that he could see himself walking away from the game at 35 years of age, five seasons from now.
“This game, your craft, you have to continue studying it,” said Durant, whose uniform number is also 35. “No matter how much you enjoy it, nobody wants to be in school that long. I know I don’t. At some point, you have to be ready to graduate. Thirty-five, that’s just a number in my mind.”
Durant, who turns 30 in September, could ink a five-year deal in July. If he went down that path, it could end up being his last contract.
Rich Kleiman, Durant’s business partner, said Durant had previously shared with him that he might walk away at 35. “I heard him say that, but I’ll believe it when it happens.”
The Golden State Warriors star, along with Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James (31,038), are viewed as two prime candidates who could overthrow Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) as the league’s all-time regular-season scoring leader.
Durant is a little over 18,000 points shy of the record. He explained why he’s not chasing the mark.
“Because it’s not about [the record],” Durant said Friday. “I can leave the game knowing I did everything I wanted to do, my way, on my terms. That’s how I want to leave the game. And if I happen to have all these accolades and these accomplishments, then that’s cool. If not, I’m still cool.
“So, I don’t think that’s going to define me as a player. It’s a cool accomplishment to be up there with the greats and to be considered someone who can potentially chase that, or beat that, but I’m not playing for that.”
Considered a basketball lifer, Durant has been working since he was eight to be a professional basketball player. Although it has consumed most of his life, he said if he does retire at 35, he’ll be at peace with where he stands in history.
“Especially if I continue to approach the game the right way every day like I’ve been doing, hell yeah. Hell yeah I can move on,” he said. “No matter how many points I score, no matter how many people I pass up, no matter how many points I leave on the table, my legacy, as we always like to talk about, I can go up and ask any person who has ever seen me play and they’ll have a different way of viewing my game. So, it’s hard for me to go out there and play for that type of stuff because it changes through so many people. So many groups of people probably view my game differently. So, it’s hard for me to focus on that.
“But I will focus on the people that love me the most, that encourage me, that pour into me and vice versa. I value what they say and how they feel about me more so than anything because that’s who I really went through this journey with, those people. That’s what my legacy lies in. I know they’re going to view it as a perfect career no matter what.”
Durant said he wants people to realize that he gave it all.
“Everything else, the numbers, the accolades, that stuff will fall in line organically,” he said. “So, I’m not trying to go out there and force anything. I’m just trying to play the right brand of ball the best I can do it and see what happens.”
As for life after basketball, Durant has expressed a desire to own an NBA franchise. However, he hasn’t put a limit on himself.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “That’s the beauty. I’d hate to say ‘Man, I don’t want to do this, do that’ when I’ done playing. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to still be in love with the game and want to be around it every day. Who knows? I might want to be a coach or a GM or an owner or somebody that works guys out or somebody that’s trying to tell basketball stories like Kobe [Bryant]. Who knows?
“I feel like I have options. I’m young, I’m still learning life and about basketball. I have a whole life ahead of me that I’m excited about, and I thank basketball for opening up so many doors for me.”