Kevin Durant: Making a Run for The King's Throne
This isn't a debate most were anticipating last season, or when Durant went second in the draft to Seattle behind Greg Oden, but I've been calling it since his third game at Texas.
Some may be ready to label this damn near blasphemous, but those people have clearly bought into the LeBron hype machine and ignored Oklahoma City's budding superstar's remarkable progress in the process.
When he declared for the NBA draft, Durant stated at his press conference that he didn't want to be "just another player in the NBA." Three seasons later, he's likely going to be the runner-up for MVP honors before he's passed through puberty.
When the topic of greatness comes up, it's a two-way race between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James for most NBA pundits. As far as I'm concerned, this isn't a two-way race anymore.
LeBron's case has been well advertised by the NBA. He can play five positions, can defend, rebound, pass, walk on water, cure cancer, and do absolutely anything he wants to on the basketball court.
But what does walking on water have to do with winning basketball games? Nada.
James has parlayed his skills into global superstardom. He's been the face of the NBA since he walked onto the scene in 2003. However, lost in the shuffle of superstars who talk the talk are those who walk the walk.
Players like Durant who lack the charisma to lead the NBA marketing effort often fly under the radar. He'll never score the endorsement deals or global fanfare LeBron enjoys, but to his credit, I don't think he gives a damn.
Durant reminds many scouts of George "the Iceman" Gervin, but his passion for the game is most similar to players like Bryant and Jordan. He has the very same killer instinct that helped those two separate themselves from every other player in the league.
He doesn't want to beat you, he wants to destroy you. He wants to humiliate you. He wants to do it on your home court, in front of your fans. He wants to give you hope for a few moments, and then tear it away from you, just because he can.
It is the hardest thing for young teams to win on the road. Oklahoma City currently boasts the fourth-best road record in the league, and they owe it to Durant's mental strength and leadership.
It is this inborn quality which made Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, and Tim Duncan truly great. They never seemed too concerned with what people thought about them.
One can't help but see similarities between the career paths of Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James. Both entered the league as physical specimens, the likes of which the league had never seen. Both enjoy the lime light and global fame their talent has brought them.
When the curtains close, both will be Hall of Famers and both will have rings to show for their talents. However, people will always wonder how great either one could have been had they played the game for the right reasons.
They both seem to be chasing shadows, desperately seeking to become bigger than the game they play. It's almost ironic that they're currently playing for the same team.
The difference between James and Durant is their mental makeup. One is designed to wow you, and the other is designed to wow himself. One lives for the adoration of others, while the other lives to look himself in the mirror.
When it's all said and done, Durant will be this era's Michael Jordan. He's not quite as spectacular, and he may never be as good, but he plays the game for the same reasons—his own.
Durant will grow into his frame, get stronger, and be on a team loaded with talent which will grow with him. His numbers don't show it, but he does make his teammates better.
If I'm starting a team today, and I have my pick of any player in the league, I take Durant in a heartbeat. I guess I'm old-school in some regards.
I care more about rings than filling arenas. I care more about domination on the court than I do about domination in the box scores. I care more about great players than players who play great.
Kobe may still be the best player in the league, but LeBron's performance of late has left little doubt in the minds of most that he's ready to take the throne.
My argument is simple. It isn't his throne to take.
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