In a league designed to promote individuals over teams, Kevin Durant is being positioned to be the next "Star Among Stars" in the NBA.
Durant, who is closing in on the scoring title is also closing in on a deal with Panini America, the memorabilia company,which would make him the worldwide spokesman for the NBA’s exclusive trading card and memorabilia partner.
Durant, in just his third year in the NBA, also has sizable national sponsorship deals with Nike and Gatorade. The Oklahoma City Thunder are also benefiting from the attention. Sources indicate that the Thunder and Durant will be scheduled for a minimum of 10 national TV broadcasts next season, and might even be featured in the traditional Christmas Day action on ABC.
The Thunder, who play in the smallest market in the NBA, were scheduled for one national TV broadcast this season, although two more games were picked up.
While Durant has gained in popularity this year, he still rates only 15th among NBA player jerseys being sold, while Kobe is still #1.
The intriguing question over the next year or so will be if Durant and Oklahoma City can still be a fit in an NBA that is about to go through a messy collective bargaining agreement fight. Durant, who becomes a restricted free agent after the 2010-11 season, is also eligible contract extension this summer. Beginning July 1, Oklahoma City could offer Durant a five-year $80 million deal, and Durant has indicated he would sign such an offer.
But NBA owners are threatening to play hard ball in the CBA talks, claiming that league teams will collectively lose $400 million this season. There is a very real possibility of a lockout, and then of reduced salaries with a hard cap in place. If the Thunder (stupidly) decide to wait and see what happens it could save as much as $25 million on a new contract offer to Durant, but of course he would probably go somewhere else if they decided to wait it out.
By politely stating that he would be honored at a $80 million offer, Durant is placing the pressure squarely on the Thunder. Sign him at midnight on July 1 for the maximum restricted offer, or risk losing the next transcendent player in the NBA.
Meanwhile the marketing of Kevin Durant continues apace.
His official website has photos, videos and has everything you would like to know about Kevin.
You can follow him on facebook where you can join his other 96,500 friends.
For those of you with ADD just follow Kevin on twitter.
As for me, I am a little old school ...
So I will head down to the nearest Footlocker and pick up pair of Kevin's latest shoe design.