Durant: Dirk 'one of my favorite players' ever

OKLAHOMA CITY – Thunder superstar Kevin Durant didn’t suddenly decide to steal Dirk Nowitzki’s signature move a couple of summers ago.

To hear Durant tell it, it’d been in the works for about a decade.

Asked after Oklahoma City’s morning shootaround when he identified the one-legged fadeaway as something he wanted to implement into his game, Durant told reporters, “When I was 13.” Nowitzki was 23 at the time and in the midst of the first of his 11 All-Star seasons.

“Sorry I’m making Dirk seem a little bit old, but that’s when I started focusing on Dirk, and he became one of my favorite players to ever play this game,” Durant said hours before the Mavs meet the Thunder at Cheseapeake Energy Arena. “I just tried it one day when I was working out in the summer. It was rougher than I thought it was going to be, so it took me some time to figure it out, but I think I’m doing all right with it.”

The first time Durant unveiled the shot publicly just so happened to be in the gym that Dirk built. Durant knocked down a one-legged midrange jumper in the teams’ preseason opener at the American Airlines Center after the lockout, and it’s become a regular part of his arsenal ever since.

As is the case with the 7-foot Nowitzki, it’s a virtually unblockable shot for Durant, who appears to be at least two inches taller than his listed 6-foot-9 and has the wingspan of a pterodactyl. Their length allows them to get the shot off at will, but it takes great skill to be able to consistently make a shot that isn’t in any basketball textbooks.

Durant, a three-time NBA scoring champion at the ripe old age of 25, learned the shot by watching Nowitzki and working in the gym. He’s never discussed the technique with Nowitzki, who has always had high praise for Durant, particularly during the two playoff series between the Mavs and Thunder.

“I would love to,” Durant said. “I really admire Dirk – probably my favorite player in the league. No, I haven’t talked to him about it. I’m too busy trying to compete with him.”

The Thunder have defeated their Red River rivals in 12 of the 13 meetings since Dallas eliminated OKC in the 2011 West finals. However, Durant believes the Mavs have by far their best team since that title run.

“Their best player is healthy again and playing well,” Durant said. “And I think they have a real good point guard, sort of like their Jason Kidd with [Jose] Calderon, a guy that’s a shooter, can really pass it, rarely turns the ball over. Then Monta Ellis is almost like their Jason Terry, so it feels like they’ve got their championship team back with the guys they’ve added, so it’s definitely going to be a tough game.”