LeBron James of the Miami Heat—winner of the last two NBA MVP awards and four overall—congratulated Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant following a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein that KD will claim the honor for the first time.
LBJ said the following, per ESPN’s Michael Wallace:
LeBron on reports Durant wins MVP. "Kudos to him. Much respect. He deserved it. He had a big-time MVP season."— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) May 5, 2014
Durant put together an absolutely stellar season during his seventh year as a pro. He averaged 32 points and 5.5 assists per game—both career highs—to go with 7.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 50.3/39.1/87.3 shooting splits. He captured his fourth scoring title in a five-year span as a result of the offensive output.
The lanky small forward arguably solidified his case for MVP during the month of January. Playing without three-time All-Star Russell Westbrook, Durant posted averages of 35.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists during the month while shooting 54.9 percent from the field and 43.6 percent from beyond the arc.
His streak of 41 consecutive games scoring 25 points or more began on Jan. 7 when he dropped 48 in a loss against the Utah Jazz.
James and Durant won gold medals together during the 2012 Olympics in London for USA Basketball. The two are good friends and have been offseason training partners in the past, but perhaps Durant dethroning James from his MVP pedestal will add more fuel to the fire of this friendly rivalry.
Durant explained in April of last year that he’s sick of finishing second.
“I’ve been second my whole life,” he said, per Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. “I was the second-best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the Finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.”
Well, No. 35 backed up that talk emphatically during the 2013-14 season. Now, at least in terms of MVP voting, he won’t have to settle for second place.
Of course, as Bleacher Report's Kelly Scaletta wrote, OKC's star player will be judged by team results, not individual numbers:
The Oklahoman was fair in calling Durant 'Mr. Unreliable,' not just because he was struggling, but also because the Thunder were on the precipice of elimination. ...
When it mattered the most, though, Durant dug deep and found his inner MVP.
In the two closeout games, Durant averaged 34.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He shot .561 from the field, .455 from three and .857 from the free-throw line. Most impressively, in the two games combined, the Thunder outscored the Grizzlies by 47 points while Durant was on the court.
KD put together a transcendent performance during the regular season. That didn't translate right away when the playoffs started, but he came to play when it mattered most.
Can the former Texas Longhorn continue playing at the MVP-caliber level he displayed in the final two games against the Memphis Grizzlies in Round 1? Will the Thunder get back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012? Can Durant cap his MVP campaign with a championship ring?
Ultimately, that's what the 25-year-old wants to be remembered for. Winning an MVP is a great accomplishment, but he's still chasing the elusive Larry O'Brien Trophy.