Featured Photo Credit: USA Today Sports
LeBron James has been classified as the best basketball player on the planet for roughly a decade now. Even at 32 years old, and with 14 years in the NBA, LeBron continues to show how great he still is. His sustained level of consistency and excellence over the past decade-plus is simply incredible.
After leading his team to his 7th straight NBA Finals, LeBron finds himself facing a tough task in facing the Golden State Warriors for the third year in a row. However, this Warriors team is unlike the teams he had faced in the previous two Finals. Why? Two words: Kevin Durant.
For most of the past five years, many expected that Durant would soon surpass LeBron as the best on the planet. However, after Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder lost to James’ Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals 4-1, giving James his first ring, the discussion quieted a bit. Combined with Durant’s 4-14 career regular season record against LeBron, the fact Durant never reached another Finals, injuries, and the rise of Stephen Curry, talks of Durant being the best player on the planet quieted even more.
When Durant made the decision to sign with the Warriors last summer, many people got the impression he did it because he didn’t believe he could beat the Warriors. However, the bigger reason may have been because he didn’t believe he could beat LeBron or the Cavaliers.
In the first two games of the 2017 NBA Finals, Durant has averaged 35.5 PPG, 11 RPG, 7 APG on 56.3 percent shooting from the field. Meanwhile, LeBron has averaged 28.5 PPG, 13 RPG, and 11 APG on 55.2 percent shooting from the field. The numbers are very comparable, as they’ve always been, however with Durant’s team now up 2-0, more people are taking notice. Durant has played so well so far in these Finals that it has prompted Paul Pierce to declare that Durant may be the best player in the world.
In LeBron’s 7 straight Finals appearances, one thing we have not seen is a player clearly outperform LeBron while also beating his team (outside of Dirk Nowitzki in 2011). Some may say Durant will do that this year. Despite this series being far from over, just two wins separate Durant and his first NBA championship.
If Durant continues to play this well and the Warriors win the championship, will he have surpassed LeBron as the best player on the planet? Or will LeBron remain The King, win or lose? The answer is quite obvious for some, but for others, the results of this year’s Finals may sway their opinion.