It’s always fascinating to hear NBA players talk about who they studied as a kid. Often you can see the similarities, as it’s clear what the modern player learned from an early tutor. Often there’s a clear connection based on location.
And often it’s not quite clear what makes one player study another.
Durant said that, “The first person I studied was Billy Owens, who went to Syracuse. He was the first guy I watched film of and tried to emulate his game.”
It’s a fascinating selection for a few reasons. While Owens was a fine player, he wasn’t a star - in his ten-year career, he never made an All-Star team or an All-NBA team. Durant grew up in an era with numerous superstars, so it’s interesting that he studied a role player.
Owens also had no proximity to Durant. While Syracuse isn’t horribly far from Durant’s hometown, it is a few hundred miles away, and, more importantly, Owens entered the draft when KD was only two years old.
But with the benefit of hindsight, there’s the Warriors connection. Owens, a forward like Durant, began his career in Golden State, after the Sacramento Kings - who had selected him third overall in the 1991 draft - traded him in exchange for fan favorite Mitch Richmond.
He played his first three years for the Warriors, and returned to The Bay for part of the penultimate season of his career. In all, he averaged 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in a Warriors jersey - solid numbers, but not exactly Durant-esque.
Who knows what led adolescent Durant to study Owens, when players like Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler were running wild.
But it’s pretty cool.