With LeBron James aging, Durant can rightfully dethrone King James and finally make the league his. Two games into the Finals and Durant is manhandling LeBron on both ends of the floor.
How long have fans, critics, and experts called Kevin Durant the second-best player in the NBA? In two years, Durant could finally complete this mission. Durant can keep his head above water by winning the finals this year, but if these Warriors were to win back-to-back championships, it will nearly solidify him as the best player in the league.
Since 2011, KD has been on the pedestal as the second best player on the hardwood floor. Becoming the best player in the league is always a goal for the majority of the players.
Since 2003, a player from Akron Ohio, has owned this statement,” he’s the best player in the league”, better known as “King James.”
James is no doubt the best player in the league. You can hardly question his resume. Yes, James went to a different team and collaborated with two of the top 10 players in the league to chase a ring, but beating the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder was a hard task to overcome. Also, his finals record is currently below .500 at 3-4. However, James is the first player in the NBA to appear in the finals seven straight times since Bill Russell Celtics and break many, many records.
His 6 foot 8 and 250 pounds frame can cover all five positions on the floor. One of the reasons why LeBron is named one of the greatest forces in the league. His career averages are 27.1 points, 7 assists, and 7.3 rebounds and still haven’t shown any signs of regression at the age of 32.
In the last ten years, there’s only one player in the league, whose career stats sheet is nearly identical to King James, and that’s KD. Everybody can argue this, but Durant is the only players, who is in James’ rearview mirror. Durant’s career averages: 27.2 points, 3.8 assists, and 7.2 rebounds at the age of 28.
Likewise to James, Durant has a unordinary body type for the small forward position. Being a 7’0 small forward is an advantage for Durant on any night. Another similarity is that both players went to another team to seek gold and join forces with top time players in the league.
Unlike James, Durant has not been to the finals seven straight times, nor has he been close to seven finals. KD only had one opportunity to get his fingers on the gold, but “the best player in the league,” got in the way.
In 2012, Durant and LeBron met for the first time in the NBA Finals. At the time, experts were depicting KD as one of the best players in the league. According to Dan Smith of Bleacher Report, Durant and James were the best players in the league.
“The two best players were set to face one another in what appears to be an amazing NBA Final matchup,” according to Smith.
The first three games of the finals were competitive. However, Durant played better at the beginning of the series. Durant’s first three games, he averaged 31 points, shot 57.4 percent, 40.9 from downtown, 73.7 free throw percentage, 67 true shooting percentage, 67.0 efficiency field goal percentage, 123 offensive rating, and 30.6 usage rate. Per Basketball Reference.
Durant led in all categories except for free throw percentage and usage rate. When it counted, James was unguardable in the final two games of the series.
Nevertheless, James won the series 4-1 and shut down all speculations that Durant was close to becoming better than James or even next to him. Durant didn’t take that lost lightly, he was in pain according to Durant’s mom Wanda Durant. Shaun Powell of NBA interviewed Wanda on 31 May 2017.
“He was hurt,” said Wanda Durant. “It was painful, losing that championship.”
Since that final matchup, James left Durant in the dust by going to 5 straight finals and winning two more rings with two different teams.
Durant never reached the Finals again until this year. Durant dealt with knee, leg, and foot injuries for the next years. Last season, KD was close to reaching another Finals; he was up 3-1 against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, Golden State rallied back to force a game 7 and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Fast forward to the 2016 offseason; Durant decided to shock the NBA world and sign with the Warriors. Durant became the villain of the NBA after teaming up with arguably the top five best players in the league, Stephen Curry let alone with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. By doing the eye test, Durant was the number one option for the Warriors on offense. In the regular season, Durant averaged 25.1 points, 4.8 assists, 8.3 rebounds and a 27.68 PER (rank #2 in the league).
KD led the Warriors to their third straight finals trip and his second finals appearance. In 2013, In an interview with Royce Young of ESPN, Durant told Young that he is tired of being number two.
“I was the second-best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the Finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.”
Durant’s team is finally number one this year. Not only can KD get his first ring, but beating James in the finals this year can also contribute to putting his name back in conversations with James. KD can finally put being number two in his past by winning the ship.
If KD surpasses LBJ in the finals, his name will be back in controversial debates and can own the conversation by bringing the Warriors back to the finals next year.
Lastly, if he doesn’t get the recognition of being a better player than James, fans and critics will at least start calling the NBA “Kevin Durant’s’ League.” Some people are going to say, “Durant needed Curry.” If you are an NBA player, you cannot win it by yourself, Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant needed Shaq, etc. Winning back to back finals matchup against King James with or without the Warriors is monumental.
With James aging and will be 34 in the next two years, Durant is 30.
Durant not only need to beat James back-to-back times, but he also needs to annihilate him. KD would need to expose James on the offensive end and on the defensive side. Durant is going to have to outplay James in every single game in the finals.
It’s not impossible, “NBA Playoffs, where amazing happens.”
Durant cannot catch up with the milestones that James has achieved, but he can win the competitive standpoint argument; he can take some ownership.
Determining the best players nowadays are based on offensive stats, championship rings, or head to head finals record. With that being said, Durant owns the offensive stats, LeBron owns the championships/matchup and unforgettable milestones achieved.
If KD can win this year and in the next two years, he can own the head to head finals record of 2-1. James would only have one ring more than Durant, so why not?
I asked Kelly Scaletta of FanRags and Bleacher Report, Oliver Maroney of UPROXX and David Vertsberger of VICE Sports and FanRags. Do you believe if Kevin Durant beat LeBron James this year and next year in the finals it has officially became Kevin Durant’s league?
Kelly Scaletta answer—No. Because I think if Durant were on the Cavaliers and James were on the Warriors, it would be close.
Oliver Maroney answer—I don’t think so, I think the narrative that one player beats the other is taken way out of proportion. This is still a team game no matter how many people want to display it as something else. Durant has Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and other guys who can step up and still take over. So no, I don’t think there is much of an argument. Do I think LeBron possibly regressing in one to two years in plausible? Sure. But do I think Kevin Durant beating him in finals is going to control that narrative of Durant being better than LeBron? No. However, I think this will be Durant League.
David Vertsberger answer—It really depends on the context. If LeBron gets thoroughly outplayed by Durant in an obvious fashion, it’s definitely a discussion. If the Cavs lose back-to-back Finals simply because the Warriors are better, then I’d say no. As for the argument as who’s better, there’s really nothing you can say in favor of anybody over LeBron right now.