The sport of basketball is truly amazing. In no other team sport can the “who’s the best player in the world argument” be solved so organically. From Magic vs. Bird, Kobe vs. McGrady, Kobe vs. LeBron, to the moment that we have arrived to now, LeBron vs. Durant. One is a 28 year old, 6-9’ 270 pound locomotive, who is currently steamrolling through the NBA using a truly rare combination of Power, Speed, quickness, agility, handle, court vision, unselfishness and the ability to terrorize opponents with his defense. The other is a 24 year old 6-11 215 pound luminary, who is for all intents and purposes is an offensive Swiss army knife, who’s shooting, grace, and elegance often make it seems like he is just floating out there on the court. Durant and James are the two best players in the NBA by a wide margin, and they have no true weakness, just parts of their game’s that are stronger than others. When these two superstars matched up in the finals last June it was clear that LeBron was the hungrier of the two, having endured several playoff failures in prior seasons, and it showed. However, Durant still averaged an impressive 30 points per game on 53% shooting from the field, and some people(Skip Bayless & Stephen A. Smith) still thought that his play was subpar. Therein lies the best part of the Durant-James match up, they’re on great teams that will likely be battling for years to come in June and they play the same position so when they do match-up they can guard each other. Not to mention that Durant and James are very good freinds, who train together in the off-season.
There aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary to describe LeBron James, he is truly the “created” player. Never in the history of sports have we seen a human being with the size, speed, and athleticism that James’ posses. Sometimes I look at LeBron and I wonder if we actually belong to the same species. Chew on this for a moment, he’s 4 inches and 30 pounds heavier then Calvin “Megtron” Johnson of the Detroit lions, and moves just as fast if not faster. He truly is the evolutionary basketball player that seems like he was generated in some secret laboratory. What can’t LeBron do? Think about that for a minute, what can’t LeBron James do on the basketball court. There are nights where he is the league’s best point guard, small forward and power forward all in the same game. LeBron is averaging a PER(Player Efficiency Rating) of 30.3, scoring 26.6 PPG on 18.8 Shot attempts per game, which is an astounding ratio, until you realize that he is shooting about 55% from the field. King James is grabbing 8.3 Rebounds per game and giving out 7.1 assists per game and shooting 39% from the 3-point line. With the addition of a devastating post game, it’s almost as if LeBron unlocked the cheat codes and will now torment defenders with a plethora of inside/outside moves. The best parts of LeBron’s game are that he competes HARD every single night, and plays defense like he won’t eat unless his team gets a stop. He is playing with a calm and an ease that should frighten his opponents and it seems like he is truly in the prime of his career.
Let’s be clear, Kevin Durant is a CREATURE. We’ve never seen a 6-11 wing player dominate the NBA with his jump shot? And please believe that Mr. Durant’s jumper is a thing of beauty. He has it all, the mid-range, the pull up, running of screens, finishing at the hoop and getting out in transition. There is something almost regal about the manner in which Durant goes about his business. It seems like he almost plays with a quiet rage that is barely detectable until they zoom in on his face, after he’s buried another 25 foot bomb. A lot of people compared Durant to George “The Ice Man” Gervin because they both were skinny scorers, but their games have almost no similarities. Durant is akin to that of the great Larry Bird, although he is quicker and bird was a far better rebounder. Both men are members of the 50-40-90 club because of their 50% shooting from the field, 40% shooting from the three point line, and 90% shooting from the free-throw line. Currently Kevin Durant is averaging a PER of 29.1, scoring 29.6 PPG on 18.5 shot attempts per game, shooting 52% from the field, 42% from the 3 point line, and 91% from the charity stripe. Durant is getting 7.4 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game which shows how much his overall “floor game” is improving. He is becoming a very good defender, who is capable of smothering other teams with his quickness, length and ability to turn defense into offense with his side kick Russell Westbrook. The fact that his team trusted him to guard Kobe Bryant and LeBron James during the playoffs last year speaks volumes.
So who is the better player, Durant or James? There are plenty of arguments to be made for both players, and it seems like Durant is in the lead for MVP right now. Let’s face it, it’s only a two man race, sorry Carmelo. Would you rather have the devastating physical force that is LeBron James or the 6-11 scoring machine Kevin Durant? But as of right now I would have to say that the love child of Magic, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan is the clear choice over Durant. LeBron James has asserted him-self as the best player and to be honest it’s not really close. Durant has improved and closed the gap between the two players a bit, but it’s still pretty clear to any objective basketball fan who’s the king. Although if I was building a team from scratch it may be tempting to take Durant over LeBron because he is 4 years younger and has a skillset that is far less dependent on athletic ability than LeBron James. But that is a conversation for another day, for now the King reigns supreme.