NBA Playoffs 2012: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James Is What the World Needs to See

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2012

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 04:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrates late in the game after hit a free throw against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on June 4, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NBA's two mega superstars are on a collision course with the league's ultimate trophy up for grabs.

Kevin Durant's Thunder are waiting for LeBron James' Heat to emerge from their Game 7 clash with Boston on Saturday. If they do, the NBA's best-case scenario plays out.

Ratings will be through the roof, and fans will get to see a long, ultra-competitive series.

All Big Three references and comparisons aside, the matchup between the Thunder and the Heat is about two players.

Fans across the board would tune in: casual observers, basketball enthusiasts, people who've read Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball multiple times from cover to cover. Everyone would sit eagerly on the edge of their couch in silent expectation of two superior forces meeting head on.

Let's take a look at what makes this matchup so exciting, and what could be learned about each player from the dazzling duel.


Why Is This Must-See TV?

This battle would pit the league's most analyzed, criticized and publicized figure in James against one of the most modest, consistent and quiet superstars in Durant.

Durant is in his fifth professional season. He has won three straight scoring titles, made three straight All-NBA teams and has made three consecutive All-Star teams.

In a very short time, Durant has established himself as the NBA's deadliest scorer, and a rising clutch performer. He is averaging nearly 28 points per game in this year's playoffs, and has hit a handful of crucial shots.

Oklahoma City's leader scores willingly, but he does not face the same pressures on a nightly basis.

James is under constant scrutiny. Some of it is his fault, but part of it comes with the territory of being the world's greatest all-around basketball player.

James has won three of the last four league MVP trophies. He averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 boards and 6.2 dimes a contest. So far in the postseason James is averaging 30.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists a night.

He has performed at an elite level culminating in last night's 45 points in Game 6 against Boston.

NBA fans need to see the league's two best players square off.

It's like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. No one wants to see a co-best player. An alpha dog needs to be established.

This matchup would present the perfect opportunity.


What Could We Learn About Each Player?

Clutch is the first word that comes to mind.

Durant has proven himself this postseason. He has hit a number of major, late-game shots. The moment is never too big for this lanky, silky-smooth sharpshooter.

LeBron is hammered on a regular basis for his placid demeanor and idle offensive approach late in crucial games. He is an incredibly talented player, but why doesn't he play every night like he did in Game 6?

James' absence in the fourth quarter is documented, and probably over-analyzed. Turning in a major performance against Boston Saturday night would go a long way in fixing that reputation.

Following that big performance with a monster NBA Finals run would diminish the claim further.

This matchup will be picked apart in every which direction.

How will Durant play against Shane Battier's hard-nosed defense? Who will LeBron defend? And ultimately, who will hit the big shot when the chips are down?

All of these questions will go a long way in determining the NBA's ultimate player.

Every observer will be eager to watch LeBron try to finally establish his playoff pedigree. Watching Durant continue his ascension will be just as compelling.

This matchup is what is good for both players, and it is ultimately good for the NBA. Star power is never a bad thing.