The 2017 NBA Combine will be without several of the projected top picks in this year’s draft, including Lonzo Ball of UCLA, Josh Jackson of Kansas, and Malik Monk of Kentucky. Whereas the NFL Combine is a hot ticket and prospects are often scrutinized nationally for skipping the event, the NBA Combine has significantly less appeal for the NBA’s next class of players. Those who are projected to go in the lottery or better oftentimes see the event has having no power to help their stock, and instead will hold private workouts with a select group of potential suitors.
Chris Haynes of ESPN spoke with Kevin Durant, who famously failed to record a single rep of 185 pounds on the bench press at the 2007 NBA Combine, and also scored poorly on the agility drill, vertical leap, and thee-quarter court sprint. Durant had this to say in regards to the annual event:
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Durant said, as he adjusted his body to get comfortable in his seat. “All the strength coaches were laughing at me and s—. They were giggling with each other that I couldn’t lift 185 pounds, and I was like, ‘All right, keep laughing. Keep laughing.’ It was a funny thing, because I was the only one that couldn’t lift it and I was struggling to lift it. I was embarrassed at that point, but I’m like, ‘Give me a basketball, please. Give me a ball.'”
“I knew nobody in that draft could guard me one-on-one,” Durant said. “I knew that for sure. I knew that. And I knew that you don’t need to [bench-press] to lift a basketball up. And I knew that this wasn’t football, where that stuff matters. I knew as a basketball player I had a lot of skill, more skill than anybody in the draft. And I knew that if I worked as hard as I could, then that s— wouldn’t matter at the end of the day. It still doesn’t matter. I was ranked the last person in camp, drills-wise. I was the worst player, and the first player didn’t get drafted. That tells you a lot about the significance of that s—.”
Durant’s career seems to have worked out so far, with a Rookie of the Year and an NBA MVP trophy on his mantle. The player who registered the most reps in the bench press at that year’s combine, Russell Carter from Notre Dame, has not played a single minute of NBA action in his career and according to his Wikipedia page, currently plays for Niigata Albirex BB, a professional team in Nagaoka, Japan.