Howard cited Durant's ability to score anywhere on the floor as a seven-footer and his improved defense and shot-blocking when talking about the impact Durant has made in the NBA Finals and the perception that he has gotten the better of James in the series. And when pressed by the First Take panel to pick between Durant and James, Howard sided with Durant as the NBA's best.
You can see the full segment below:
There's no question that Durant is playing spectacular basketball at the moment, averaging an absurd 35.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals in the series while leading the Warriors to a 2-0 lead in the Finals.
But the notion that James might have lost a step—or that guarding Durant is wearing him out—is pretty absurd, too. James, after all, is averaging 28.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 11.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals in the two contests.
And the Cavaliers superstar didn't think defending Durant was adversely affecting him one bit.
"Do I look tired?" James asked at Wednesday's shootaround, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. "I feel great. I'm averaging a triple-double in the Finals. I'm pretty good, I would think."
James did say that the Warriors are playing "exceptionally well," however, and acknowledged that Golden State might have a chip on its shoulder after blowing a 3-1 lead in last year's finals.
"And obviously they probably got a bad taste in their mouth after what happened last year, and we had one in our mouth last year from what happened the year before," he noted. "I've had a few bad tastes in my mouth from what happened in the Finals. And I've always had that feeling, so it never changed for me."
At some point, James will pass the torch to the NBA's next dominant superstar. Folks like Howard may already feel that has taken place. But given that James is playing in his eighth straight NBA Finals—and averaging a triple-double in this year's iteration—it seems premature to dethrone King James just yet.