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LeBron James: Everyone Knew Kevin Durant Was Going to Be Great…Except Portland

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 07:  LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers addresses the media during practice and media availability as part of the 2018 NBA Finals on June 07, 2018 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs a month ago, but that didn't stop LeBron James from handing them another L.

James, while complimenting Kevin Durant for his brilliant Game 3, reminded everyone of Portland's now-infamous decision to pass on the 2014 NBA MVP.

"You knew he was built for greatness from the time that he was drafted," James told reporters. "I mean, everybody knew that...besides Portland, I guess."

That sound you hear is Greg Oden slowly working his way up from the couch to go turn his TV off. The Blazers selected Oden with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, one spot ahead of where Durant went. Oden would have an injury-plagued NBA career that would see him play just 82 games in a Blazers uniform.

The decision completely shifted the direction of two NBA franchises. The Seattle SuperSonics selected Durant, with ownership then using their burgeoning star to spearhead a move to Oklahoma City. Durant, along with Russell Westbrook and James Harden, went on to lead the Thunder to an NBA Finals and won an MVP before leaving for Golden State.

It was the second time in Blazers history the team passed up on a generational superstar to pick an oft-injured center. Portland took Sam Bowie with the second pick in 1984, one ahead of Michael Jordan. (The Houston Rockets also passed on Jordan but ended up with Hakeem Olajuwon, a result that absolves them of criticism.)

There's nothing really to say here. Portland's decision was somewhat defensible at the time—Oden was considered a potential generational superstar—but hindsight only makes it more obvious that Durant should have been the pick. Oden had a litany of injury issues already under his belt, while Durant was fresh off perhaps the greatest individual freshman season in college basketball history. 

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