Whenever the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder meet, it’s only natural for all the attention to shift towards the star players. The preliminary contenders for the NBA’s title as the Most Valuable Player always put on a show as LeBron James tries to maintain his status as the premier player on the planet, while Kevin Durant tries to ditch the “number two” tag.
The competitive fire between LeBron James and Kevin Durant is as intense as any out there. Think Red Sox-Yankees, Ali-Frazier, Alien vs Predator. Basically, any rivalry you can think of is a good description of James and Durant.
But by no means is it a hate based rivalry where fists are flying left, right and center. Far from it. These guys both have a strong desire (as well as the ability) to be the best in the business and they respect each other for that.
Hell, they actually like each other. Perhaps a little too much.
The pair once spent some time working out together during the offseason a few years back, which didn’t sit quite well with some people i.e. Skip Bayless. I tend to look at it as a, “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer,” kind of situation.
“Individually, he can’t be stopped by any one on one player,” said James. “There’s nobody that can guard him one on one…Even in his short career, he’s one of the greatest scorers in our game.”
Yet LeBron is going to do all he can to corral the man that is now known as the “Slim Reaper,” following a scoring outburst in the month of January.
Durant has put up an average of 37 points per game in 14 games this month and has scored at least 30 points in 11 straight games, setting a new career high in the process as he terrorized Andre Iguodala with a 54 points masterclass against Golden State.
He’s on pace to become only second the player since 1992 to average at least 30 points, five assists and shoot 50 percent from the field. The other… Michael Jordan.
That’s the kind of fire power LeBron James will have to lockdown tonight, but he’s up for the challenge.
“I like going against the best,” James said. “And he’s definitely right up there. … He’s a great guy to compete against, man. I wish I could play against him every night because he brings that competitive nature out of you.”
For a while now, LeBron James has been able to keep Kevin Durant at bay and pretty much become the bane of Kevin Durant’s NBA career.
Were it not for LeBron, maybe Durant would be basking in the glory of being an NBA Champion right now, be an NBA Finals MVP and would have collected numerous regular season regular season MVP titles.
But no, he’s had to settle for second fiddle almost every time. Maybe this game tonight is where it all changes. Maybe he can win the duel and make a claim for the title as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. Maybe he can finally get out of the wide shadow cast by James.
Then again, having seen King James play over the years, there’s no way in hell he surrenders his title without a fight. But he won’t jeopardize the success of the team either.
“I’ve never changed my game (to win an MVP),” said James. “I am who I am. I score, I rebound. I pass. I defend. If that results in me having individual awards, then so be it. If not, then it (doesn’t) really matter to me.” I don’t know about you but I sense a little white lie there. Either way, at least he’s saying all the right things.
Sure, the graphics may read “Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder.” But really, it should probably say, “LeBron and Durant’s race to the MVP award,” because you can certainly guarantee the meetings tonight and on February, 20 will have a huge bearing on the outcome of the race.