LeBron James has a not-so-secret admirer, and his name is Kevin Durant.
In an interview with Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, Durant admits to a number of things, including his distaste for second place, his employment of a personal analytics expert and an affinity for LeBron:
"I don’t watch a lot of other basketball away from the gym,” Durant says. “But I do look at LeBron’s box score. I want to see how many points, rebounds and assists he had, and how he shot from the field. If he had 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, I can tell you exactly how he did it, what type of shots he made and who he passed to."
Durant has hired his own analytics expert. He tailors workouts to remedy numerical imbalances. He harps on efficiency more than a Prius dealer. To Durant, basketball is an orchard, and every shot an apple. “Let’s say you’ve got 40 apples on your tree,” Durant explains. “I could eat about 30 of them, but I’ve begun limiting myself to 15 or 16. Let’s take the wide-open three and the post-up at the nail. Those are good apples. Let’s throw out the pull-up three in transition and the step-back fadeaway. Those are rotten apples. The three at the top of the circle — that’s an in-between apple. We only want the very best on the tree.”
Well, it's safe to say we'll never look at apples the same way. It's also hardly surprising that this is what Durant had to offer.
The Durantula is one of the most potent and efficient scorers in the game. He is just one of three players in NBA history (Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki) to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from the 3 and 90 percent from the charity stripe, while also averaging 25 or more points per game.
For a young star like him to be invested in the advancement and integration of advanced analytics is encouraging. If more players employed their own numerical expert, the NBA would be a much more dynamic place.
With regard to Durant's respect for LeBron, the extent of his adoration is a tad remarkable. We've always known the two to be friends, but never would I have expected Durant to pour over James' stat line on a nightly basis.
But how far does his infatuation go? Is there a shrine (made out of apples) dedicated to "The Chosen One" somewhere in his bachelor pad? Or perhaps a picture somewhere on the wall with a caption that reads "Best Friends Forever"? (I'm so kidding.)
And also, are his feelings reciprocated? We know James isn't isn't taking a gander at Durant's stat line every night. At least not now. He's in playoff mode.
Now that we know how impassioned Oklahoma City's wunderkind is when it comes to mathematical analysis, I suppose this all makes sense.
LeBron is the most dominant player in the league and also one of the most efficient producers. He's the best, and Durant wants to be the best, so why not study (you guessed it) the best?
"That’s my guy,” Durant said (via Jenkins). “I looked up to him [James], and now I battle him.”
And he'll continue to battle him until the day his pursuit is over, when Durant is second to none, LeBron included.
If that day ever comes.