The collision course Kevin Durant and LeBron James are in the battle for the MVP award and possibly the NBA title is getting more serious, but things could be a bit more fun if there was a little less friendship in this rivalry and a bit more healthy portions of hate.
Well, hate might be a strong word, but a bit of animosity? Not every game of basketball should be played like it’s only a game and we’re all friends, shaking hands and hugging it out after it’s over. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with people getting in each other’s faces, and feeling more than just the sport-moment tension in the air.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant are friends, and also happen to be the two best players in the NBA. They’ve trained together in the offseason before, and have played for the USA basketball team in the Olympics, winning gold medals. While LeBron James has stood in Durant’s way once (2012 NBA finals) and seems to always finish ahead of him in the MVP race, this year feels like it might be different.
I’m just going out there and having fun, man. I’m just trying to play. I’m not coming in saying, ‘I’ve got to do this.’ I’m not one of those guys that predetermines anything. I just go off how the game is played and the defense teams are throwing at me and just play and be aggressive that way. I’m just enjoying it and having fun with it and taking it a day at a time.
Durant has scored 30 points or more in 11 consecutive games; he’s averaging 38.5 through that stretch, hitting 64% of his field goal attempts over the last six games and most importantly aiding the Thunder to reach the top spot in the Western conference once again with a 36-10 record. All without Russell Westbrook, and possibly, a little bit, because he isn’t playing.
Durant cares about winning championships, but he also cares about his numbers and awards. He’s said that in the past, and has been playing with an edge just because people don’t regard him as the best. At the moment, if the MVP voting was held right now, he’d probably end up winning the award, because James is averaging “only” 26 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.
Individually, he can’t be stopped by any 1-on-1 player. There’s nobody that can guard him 1-on-1. I like going against the best, and he’s definitely right up there. He’s a great guy to compete against, man. I wish I could play against him every night because he brings that competitive nature out of you.
The most important thing to remember? Even though both players will be guarding each other, this is about the Heat vs Thunder, not LeBron vs Durant. Durant usually outscored James in the meetings between them (outscoring him nine times out of 16 games) but it’s James and whichever teams he plays for that usually comes out on top, posting a 13-3 record when facing Durant and the Thunder including Miami’s 4-1 series victory in the 2012 Finals.
With the two teams playing each other for the first time this season, it’s good to remember the Heat have six consecutive wins (including the playoffs) against the Thunder and even though Durant will likely end up scoring more points, it’s going to take a lot more than his scoring ability for the Thunder to change their fortunes against the back-to-back NBA champions.