The Lebron James-Kevin Durant rivalry that has been developing for the past few years is the closest thing that many of us will ever be able to see comparable to that of the great 80s Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry. The two feuds are completely different, considering that the rivalry between Magic and Bird extended back even into their college years, including a larger team rivalry associated with the Laker for life, Magic Johnson, and the Celtic for life, Larry Bird.
But the situation is similar in regards to the level of excitement that many of us receive while watching the two players go at each other. What would make this rivalry all the better would be for Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder to face off against James’ Miami Heat.
There are no guarantees that this will happen because there are many great teams in this year’s playoff race, which is good for basketball as a whole, but bad for those looking for an exciting storyline.
As of this year, however, forgetting that both players have teams that can affect the outcome of their championship aspirations (which we sometimes forget because they are both capable of completely taking over games at times), the rivalry has intensified in recent history.
What may be the biggest reason for the intensification of this rivalry is that Kevin Durant has seemingly been on equal footing with, or perhaps even higher footing than, Lebron James with his play this year.
Lebron James has won the NBA Most Valuable Player award the past four out of five years, and one of the only reasons that he didn’t win it all of those years was because of voter fatigue in the 2010-2011 season, since his greatness on the basketball court had become quite boring because it was almost automatic.
This year, however, it appears that Kevin Durant will win by a landslide—and it has nothing to do with the panel of voters being tired of Lebron James, even though he has still been quite good this year in his matches. Even Lebron James has been quoted to abdicate the MVP throne to the towering Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant has averaged a ridiculous 31.9 ppg with 5.5 apg and 7.5 rpg, compared to Lebron’s 27.1 ppg, 6.4 apg and 6.9 rpg, but what may have clinched the MVP for him this year is the fact that the other primary threat on the Thunder, Russell Westbrook (21. 9 ppg, 6.9 apg), has been injured for a decent part of the season.
Despite this, Durant not only kept his team winning games, but they won games against good teams in that time span and made it look effortless.
What James always seemed to have over Durant was better defense, but Durant, who is not an imposing presence on the floor whatsoever, has begun to use his height to his advantage and establish himself as a defensive presence, or at least not a liability, while James’ defense has seemed to wane this season.
Durant just finished a stretch of 41 games in which he scored at least 25 ppg, which passed the almighty Michael Jordan’s mark for second most games of at least 25 ppg, only trailing Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 50 ppg back when television was black and white.
All of this may make it appear like Kevin Durant has passed the great Lebron James, but that is definitely not the case in a year in which it seems that James has coasted, despite putting up yet another year of impressive numbers. It may be that James understands that the season is long, and as he ages, his health is becoming more important for the playoffs, because Most Valuable Player awards aren’t the goal; NBA Championships are.
For a player who has been said to be the best player in the game for the past five years, this is good for the rivalry, and, more importantly, for basketball. With all of these super teams that have begun to form as of late, let’s be thankful that Durant and James haven’t found themselves on the same team—and hopefully never will—because it is no fun seeing the same team win ten years in a row. The debate of who is better between the two players in the league has been raging for the past two seasons, and now it is reaching new heights.
Something tells me that this question won’t be answered for a few more years, as Durant is still four years younger than Lebron and, unbelievably enough, might still be developing and growing as a player in the sport of basketball.
Lebron James of the Miami Heat is a competitor, and losing the MVP to Kevin Durant, someone who is four year his junior in the sport, will only add more fuel to the flame. So, expect Lebron James to come back even better than this year, and let’s all hope that Kevin Durant’s Thunder and Lebron James’ Miami Heat meet in the NBA Finals this year, because both will have something to prove to the other on the big stage in what has become one of the greatest rivalries in the NBA in years.