Jan 29, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) looks over Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

NBA: Comparing Kevin Durant To LeBron James And Michael Jordan At 25

With only four games remaining in his seventh season, the inevitable is bound to happen: Kevin Durant will win his first Most Valuable Player Award.

LeBron James, Durant’s biggest rival for the award, admitted that he should be the favorite to win it.

“I would say he’s the most consistent basketball player as far as the MVP this year, man,” LeBron James said on Wednesday.

Durant already has three scoring titles and will win his fourth this year. The next step in cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats will be capturing the MVP. After the MVP, then comes the expectation of winning championships, which all great players get judged by.

Two years ago, James bested Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals 4-1. Durant averaged 30.6 PPG for the series but lacked the overall impact on the game outside of scoring that James had already established for years. Last year, the Thunder lost in the Conference Semifinals with no Russell Westbrook. Since that loss in the Finals two years ago, Durant has become the biggest threat to challenge James for his throne as the best player in the game.

At 25 years old, the numbers he’s putting up are very comparable to James and Michael Jordan when both were that age as well.

Let’s look at the numbers when each player was 25 and when each player won their first MVP (we’re assuming Durant does this year).

 

At 25 years old

Player Season FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
Kevin Durant 2013-14 .505 .401 .875 7.5 5.5 1.3 0.7 32.0
LeBron James 2009-10 .503 .333 .767 7.3 8.6 1.6 1.0 29.7
Michael Jordan* 1988-89 .538 .276 .850 8.0 8.0 2.9 0.8 32.5
Player PER TRB% BLK% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
Kevin Durant 30.1 11.0 1.5 123 103 14.3 4.3 18.6 .302
LeBron James 31.1 11.1 2.0 121 102 13.3 5.2 18.5 .299
Michael Jordan* 31.1 11.6 1.2 123 103 14.6 5.2 19.8 .292

Each player has their own unique abilities. Durant is 6’10”, has an incredible 7’4″ wing span with a combination of athleticism, ball handling skills and a jump shot the NBA has never seen before. James is a physical specimen in his own right with the size, speed and strength to overpower defenders with ease in the open court and flash a passing ability close to Magic Johnson. Jordan was not as tall as either but was a supremely skilled athlete with an unmatched killer instinct and dominated the game on both ends.

This is the first season in which Durant has really shown his prowess as a playmaker, carrying the Thunder to a 12-game winning streak with Westbrook out (and evidenced by his career-high in assists). James and Jordan had the edge in that area, but it’s reasonable to think Durant’s playmaking ability will continue to improve over time.

First MVP Season

Player Season FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
Kevin Durant 2013-14 .505 .401 .875 7.5 5.5 1.3 0.7 32.0
LeBron James 2008-09 .489 .344 .780 7.6 7.2 1.7 1.1 28.4
Michael Jordan* 1987-88 .535 .132 .841 5.5 5.9 3.2 1.6 35.0

Here’s the big picture: James, 29, is in the middle of creating a dynasty in Miami at the peak of his prime, trying to complete a three-peat like Jordan and Kobe Bryant were able to do. Think about how much he improved from when he was 25 until now. He’s already in the discussion to be on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore along with Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Meanwhile, Durant is just entering his prime and it’s scary to think how much better he will be at 29. And in reality, if he’s able to win a championship this season, we might be witnessing the end of the LeBron James era before he turns 30.

Championships?

James and Jordan were both 27 when they won their first title. Durant is only 25.

The playoffs will tell a lot about the face of the league and where it’s headed. Will King James win three in row and reign supreme throughout his 30’s, or will Durant become an NBA champion in James’ prime and be on his own way to starting a dynasty?

That is something that never happened with Jordan. As soon as he became a champion, not one player took the throne from him.

This year, Durant is threatening to overtake James.

Let’s revisit this idea come June, when Durant could have added an MVP award along with a Larry O’Brien trophy to his resume.

Tags: Kevin Durant Lebron James Miami Heat Michael Jordan Oklahoma City Thunder

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