If it wasn’t for the hate spewed at LeBron James during his first season with the Miami Heat, he would have had five consecutive MVP awards. Kevin Durant has been touted as the guy who will replace James at the top of the NBA, but for now, both he and the Oklahoma City Thunder have to settle for second best, at the most.
LeBron James was 24, just finishing his sixth season in the NBA when he won his first MVP award. Kevin Durant will be turning 25 during the next season, his seventh in the NBA. It’s not exactly the most accurate of measuring sticks. When LeBron James entered his prime, Kobe Bryant was the best player in the league, but James’ all-around excellence is by far more impressive than Bryant’s scoring.
And it seems like Durant, still, might be stuck under the same label. Of an excellent offensive player, possibly the best in the league, but that’s it. There’s no reason comparing the defensive abilities and impact of both players because it isn’t even close. James is the better rebounder and passer, and it seems that when he takes over the game, it doesn’t have to be with scoring, which is an inseparable part of Durant’s best moments.
Personal rivalry? Morel like friendship, as the two have spent the last two summers working out together. It might not happen again this offseason, but at least Durant will have a bit less bitterness in him from having to train with James right after losing to him in the NBA finals, which was the case last year. Instead of a rematch in the finals, Durant had to try and lead the Thunder on his own against the Memphis Grizzlies, and failed.
James is heading into an interesting stage of his career, and a very intriguing season. If Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh continue to take steps backwards, James will have to change his game a little bit and become a little bit more selfish for the Miami Heat to remain the best team in the NBA. There haven’t been any offseason additions that allow him to take it easier on offense. Maybe that’s why he’s giving up on USA basketball, but it probably has to do with preparing himself for the second decade of his NBA career, which means giving his body more rest than before.
Durant? He’s supposed to keep getting better. A better scorer, a better passer, a better defender. Durant did try and show a bit more versatility last season. He averaged a career high 4.6 assists per game without it hurting his scoring. Maybe it had to do with James Harden leaving the team. During the Grizzlies series he fell off his feet from exhaustion by trying to do everything for everyone.
Maybe Durant is what he is. An incredible scorer, a scoring champion as a matter of fact on a normal year, but that’s it. Maybe the moment he strays away from his greatest strength, he’s no longer the second best player in the league. There possibly is only one LeBron James. There’s nothing wrong with being a second-best to that kind of player, even if Durant is getting tired of being a number 2 for most of his NBA career. There’s a good chance he’ll have to wait a little bit longer for a promotion.