By Sam Rubenstein

Kevin Durant, recently named Western Conference Rookie of the Month, budding NBA Superstar. But before he was that, he was one of the greatest college basketball players of all-time. We’ve known for a while that he would grace the cover of EA Sports March Madness ’08, which hits stores next week, but what we didn’t know was that there would be classic NCAA teams in the game, with legendary players from the past. Now, when I say Durant was one of the greatest college players of all-time, that’s not me throwing out a random opinion, I am trusting the rankings in the game.

Here are a few sample names with rankings for you…
North Carolina Michael Jordan Shooting Guard 96
Texas Kevin Durant Small Forward 94
Michigan State Earvin Johnson Point Guard 94
Houston Clyde Drexler Small Forward 92
Indiana State Larry Bird Small Forward 92

Yup. It’s like THAT. EA Sports hooked me up with the chance to speak with Kevin on Monday, the day after the scoreboard fire delay game against Golden State, and I didn’t pass that up. I even managed to ask him a few questions about real non-video game NBA life.

SLAM: I heard there was a fire at your game the other night. Are you okay?

KD: There was a little fire, nothing serious though. They had the proper authorities there, I knew they’d put it out.

S: I’ve been reading about the video game. They have special vintage college teams on there. For the player ratings it’s MJ, then you, Magic, Bird and Drexler. Pretty good company.

KD: That’s great company to be in. Legends of the game right there.

S: So in the game, nobody should ever be able to stop you. You should score 50 every time.

KD: Ha ha, I don’t know about that. But I’m gonna see how it is. If you can go for 40, then you’re an alright player in the game. That’s what I say.

S: Have you played the game?

KD: I played the early edition a couple of months ago. It’s pretty good. I could stay up all night playing.

S: Do you have time to play now, even though you’re a big NBA star with a lot of responsibility?

KD: When practice ends, and with practice early in the morning, you’ve got a lot of the day to yourself. A lot of time. We go on the road, my teammates bring their game systems with them, and we might play it then. We’ve got a lot of time. Even though we play a lot of NBA games, we’ve got the time.

S: In Madden they had Devin Hester ranked with 100 speed, the first ever in Madden history, and that turned out to be true this year. So they should know what they’re doing for you, in NBA Live too.

KD: Hopefully. Rated this high in the college game with like Drexler and Bird, that’s kind of stretching a bit for a player like myself. But it’s a blessing to be among the greatest college players ever to play the game. To be on the all-time Texas team too. Some of the greatest college players came out of Texas. It was a great honor for me.

S: Your name’s in the game this time, not just Texas #35, right?

KD: This year my name’s in. Last year it was just my number. It’ll be fun to see my face on the cover.

S: When you play this or Live, are you always the Sonics and Texas?

KD: I mix it up, but in the college game I always play with Texas. I think this year we have the best PG in college basketball and one of the best shooting guards in the country. We’ve got guys that can do pretty much anything. So I like to play with them and see how far they can go in the game. They have great players on that team and I’m kind of biased but I watch them in real life and I’d like to see D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams get higher ratings.

S: Texas is 7-0 right now. Looking good.

KD: They’re a much better team than we were last year. Hopefully as they get better they’ll get some recognition. Unlike we did last year.

S: You didn’t get recognition?

KD: As far as a team, we weren’t ranked a lot. It’s good to see the recognition for them though.

S: Now in real life, how do you feel your rookie season has gone so far? It’s only been a month or so, but you had the injury, the losing, the buzzer beater, the 35 point game.

KD: It’s been a fun adventure. Our record doesn’t show it but we’re getting better. Sometimes that happens. You’ve gotta get through some tough times to get to the good times, I think we’re almost there. You gotta build up some momentum up and win some of the games at the end. Hopefully we’ll start getting out of those games with a W.

S: Who have you had the most fun playing against so far, and what’s your best memory?

KD: We played Orlando and Dwight Howard‘s kind of like a big brother to me. Playing against him those times was fun. I blocked his shot and I talked a little trash to him and he blocked mine the next play. That game kind of relaxed me a little bit cause it was so much fun out there. After the game we’re friends, but on the court we’re like enemies, like we don’t even know each other.

S: Speaking of relaxing and being friendly, I saw you on Inside the NBA zinging Charles Barkley, going back and forth. Do you have writers?

KD: Ha ha. No I don’t have writers or anything like that. They just told me to go in there and be myself. Go in and have fun and that’s what I did. I think Charles made it easier on me by making jokes and give him openings to come back at him.

S: Are you tired of all the weightlifting jokes? Everyone’s telling you gain weight gain weight gain weight.

KD: Yeah. We played the Lakers last week and a fan asked me if I can bench 185 pounds. That’s old, that’s from the summertime. I kind of laughed at him. If people wanna keep bringing that up, they can. I can’t do anything about it, I just laugh it off and keep doing what I’m doing.

S: What’s up next for you and the Sonics?

KD: Keep getting better, trying to help my team win games is all I want to do.