Before the summer started, Kevin Durant finished second in voting for the NBA MVP award behind LeBron James. Then he and his Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, Russell Westbrook, were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers. Then the summer started, and Durant and Westbrook began trying to take over the world in the FIBA championships.
Durant and Westbrook were the most productive players for Team USA and led the way to the gold medal in Turkey with insane drives to the rim, brilliant shooting accuracy and an estimated 5.7 wins produced between them in 13 games during the exhibition tour, preliminary round and single-elimination tournament for the FIBA World Championships. Durant went from finishing behind LeBron James in the NBA MVP voting to leap-frogging his performance in the 2008 Olympics on the way to a FIBA World Championships MVP award while making a claim for the title of best forward in the world. The table below compares Durant's performance in the 2010 World Championships to LeBron's performance in the 2008 Olympics.
Comparing Kevin Durant & LeBron James Against The World
All stats are per 40 minutes
Points Per Shot = (points-free throws)/shot attempts
Adjusted Shooting Percentage = Points-per-shot divided by two
Net Possessions = Rebounds+Steals-Turnovers
Win Score = PTS+REB+STL+½*BLK+½*AST–FGA–½*FTA–TO–½*PF
||Average Forward vs.
Team USA in 2010
|Points Per Shot
|Adjusted Shooting Percentage
|Free Throw Percentage
|Free Throw Attempts
Durant's performance in the World Championships and LeBron's performance in the Olympics are almost statistically even when compared against the level of FIBA competition in 2010.
Offensively, LeBron was the more efficient scorer but Durant was the better volume scorer because he got off more shots, got to the free throw line more often and was a much better free throw shooter. However LeBron's passing gave him a slight advantage.
Defensively, they created nearly the same amount of net possessions for Team USA. Durant was a better rebounder and ball-handler but LeBron's 4.1 steals per 40 minutes would have been an equalizer if he didn't commit so many fouls to get them, which gave Durant a slight edge in those categories.
While Durant's climb to LeBron's level on the world stage this summer was impressive, it didn't help decide which player should start getting B.I.W. text messages from Pat Riley. The upcoming NBA season will tell whether Durant has truly closed the gap between he and LeBron, but what do past NBA seasons tell us?