by Navindra Persaud
Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. All are rivalries that have helped define the game of basketball and showcase the competitive nature within the sport. Today Lebron James and Kevin Durant have earned the rivalry that fans and the media have cooked up. But is there really a competition between the two?
James has established himself as one of the top players in NBA history and continues to write his story. The Miami Heat forward has four league MVP awards, two NBA Finals MVP awards as well as two back-to-back NBA Championships all by the age of 29. For a player who is now in his 10th year, his statistics and accolades continue to increase. Even though James has been competing in the league for a decade, his body is showing minimal signs of aging. This gives fans hope that, if his body allows it, he may be playing for another 10 years, ultimately leaving room for even more accomplishments.
Durant – the younger of the two players at 25-years-old – has none of the accolades mentioned for James but has shown many instances of greatness in being able to score from all ends of the court. Sure scoring is an excellent attribute for any player to have, but at the end of the day, the team with the most points is the one that wins. That being said, what separates these two players is their ability to make the team they are on a better one.
A key difference in the overall career average for these two players is assists. James averages 3.5 more assists than Durant putting James ahead of Durant in terms of being a more complete player. Durant, who plays forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, shares the spotlight with explosive and young point guard Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is a guard who is capable of scoring in a plethora of ways, which can make it difficult on a player like Durant to really take leadership of his team.
A case can be made that James also shares the spotlight with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh; however James, Wade and Bosh are seasoned players who all understand the importance of an unselfish game. Durant’s numbers prove that he isn’t the greatest passer in the league and that reflects heavily in the inability of the Oklahoma City Thunder to capture an NBA championship.
The rivalry for these two players for me only exists in their scoring ability and rebounding. In terms of being a complete player there is really no rivalry here for me, as James still remains the best player in the NBA for this generation excluding Kobe Bryant whose career far exceeds these two younger players. Both James and Durant have trained together in the past off-season and they know each other’s game.
Last Thursday James made a statement against OKC scoring 33 points, grabbing seven rebounds, with four steals and three assists before suffering a broken nose after a hard foul from Serge Ibaka. The game was incredibly entertaining as James went head to head with Durant who finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals as the Thunder were blown out 103-81.
For now, the match-up is just entertaining to watch, but when it comes down to a rivalry and determining which player has the upper hand, there is no doubt that Lebron James is still more decorated and a better all-around player. The fans, though, will always win when these two players take the court together to push each other to the highest level of performance that they possess.