There is a new sheriff in Clutchville and his name is Kevin Durant. If you don’t know him, I will tell you how to recognize him. He will be the guy who, after he sticks a dagger in your heart and kills your team’s playoff hopes, will be sheepishly ambling over to the front row of the stands to give his mom a kiss. He will be the guy who, after arching another improbable game winner over the outstretched arms of an enemy defender, will be praising his teammates, his coaches, his opponent, and his God in the post game interview. If you don’t know him, really know him, you should. Because he is the best thing going about the National Basketball Association right now.
His Oklahoma City Thunder are 6-0 so far in the playoffs. They have already dispatched the defending champion, Dallas Mavericks, in four straight; and now have the mighty Los Angeles Lakers in a 2-o deficit. Yet, their playoff record could easily be much different. In fact, in three of their wins, they actually trailed their opponents in the last minute of play. But in all three games, they managed to pull out wins in dramatic fashion because, in each game, Kevin Durant made the decisive bucket or free throws that put his team ahead to stay. 3-3 became 6-0 because Durant was money when it counted. In these playoffs, its been Kevin Durant, the shy, humble, selfless superstar — not Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, or Dwayne Wade — that has demonstrated the trait that sports fans care about most — the ability to make the winning play with the game on the line.
In last night’s game, with 2 minutes left to play, Durant demonstrated why he is the new sheriff. First, he used his 7 foot wing span to snatch a Kobe Bryant pass out of the sky, then glided down the court ahead of all pursuers for an effortless dunk. A little over a minute later, after a James Harden lay-up cut the Laker lead to 1, Durant went to work again. With 30 seconds to go, Durant, who had been clawed, and clutched, and grabbed by Metta World Peace all night, eluded his crazy defender, maneuvered around 7’1 Andrew Bynum, drove baseline, and arched a 12 foot-floater over the outstretched arms of 7’0 Pau Gasol. His bucket left an always confident Lakers team shaking their heads and blaming bad luck, gambling defense, and lack of execution for their inability to pull out the win. In reality, the game came down to Durant out playing Kobe Bryant when it mattered most. In stark contrast to Durant’s clutchiosity, Kobe, the Lakers’ superstar, went 0-5 with two turnovers down the stretch for his team.
But, Kobe was not the only superstar struggling this week. On Tuesday night, Lebron missed two free throws with 50 seconds remaining that would have given the Heat the lead against the equally un-clutch Indiana Pacers. The end of that game was a comical cavalcade of bricked free throws and blown opportunities. The Pacers didn’t so much win the game — they simply happened to have the lead when the widespread choking broke out on both sides. The game mercifully ended when Lebron passively waited at the three-point line for his teammate Wade to uncover and then watched as Wade missed a lay up that essentially sealed the win for the Pacers.
It seems that during the first two rounds of the playoffs, the biggest stars in the league are misfiring at crunch time — except for Mr. Durant. The fact that he does it with humility and always deflects praise to his teammates makes him that much more impressive.
Anyone who watches much basketball knows that even the clutchiest players don’t make every big shot. I recognize that it is entirely possible that Durant may miss several late shots during the rest of the Thunder’s playoff run. And, it is equally true that Durant has to do in the finals before his new found position is cemented. But, it is undeniable that at this moment, Durant, and not the other more notable superstars, is the guy you want taking the shot with the game on the line. He has earned this right by repeatedly snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat for his team in their playoff run. Kobe, Lebron, and Wade are great players who have all served their terms in office with valor, but right now in 2012, there is a new sheriff in Clutchville and his name is Kevin Durant.
 A more detailed explanation of all of the reasons why he is the best thing happening in the NBA right now will appear within the next couple of weeks on Media Rostra. I am not saying that the bio-piece will be favorable, but let’s just say that I look forward to making the scholarly argument that Durant is, more than likely, the love child of Mother Theresa and Plastic Man.