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Column: No, Kevin Durant Is Not the New King of the NBA

In case you haven’t heard, Kevin Durant is now playing defense. So not only is he a scoring threat from literally any spot on the court, but he’s a threat to send your shot into the Bay every time you drive in the paint. Last night, he blocked five shots and facilitated some great scoring for his teammates with steals and clever passes. Many last night and this morning have obsessed over his blocked shot on LeBron James and are eager to name Durant the new king in town.

Durant has his strengths and is without a doubt one of the best players in the NBA right now, but he is not a king. Yes, he is keeping the Warriors rolling without Stephen Curry, but it’s not just him. Whether or not you believe LeBron is better than Michael Jordan, it is beyond question that King James still has his crown.

Consider this: the Cavs drafted LeBron first overall in 2003. In his rookie season, Cleveland went 35-47. Since then, LeBron has never had a losing season. LeBron has been in the playoffs every year since the 2005-06 season, and has played in every Finals since the 2010-11 season, winning two championships. Cleveland, upon his departure, did not win more than 33 games in a season, and went to the Finals in LeBron’s first season back.

Durant has his own marks of excellence on his resume; but he has never been excellent without another MVP-caliber player by his side. He reached the Finals with the Thunder while playing with Russell Westbrook, last year’s MVP, and James Harden, possibly this year’s MVP. Of course, LeBron had some major help from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, but LeBron’s ability to will a team to excellence is unparalleled.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I am 100% in the camp of Colin Cowherd, who argued that LeBron should be the MVP every season. The things he does mean more than any other player, because he can literally carry any team to the Finals. Of course, he has an excellent cast around him; Kevin Love is no joke, JR Smith and Kyle Korver are some of the best outside shooters in the game, Isaiah Thomas was MVP caliber last season. But even with Thomas out with an injury, LeBron is making great things happen in Cleveland with essentially the same pieces that any other team would have.

If Durant wanted to prove his dominance, why not head to Memphis right now? It’d be a similar setup to what LeBron walked into (except for the nightmare in the locker room); a stellar point guard in Mike Conley, and a solid big man in Marc Gasol with whom he could work. I would argue that LeBron could walk into the Memphis locker room and change the culture into one of unity and winning, and he could do amazing things with that team. Do you think David Blatt had a single thing to do with the Cavs reaching the Finals in LeBron’s first year? I’m sure he had his moments, but his firing later that season speaks volumes.

LeBron is the King, no question about it. Durant walked into a bakery and stole a cupcake at gunpoint. Kevin Durant’s NBA title is literally as legitimate as a 12-year-old playing NBA 2K and playing on easy mode and turning down the other players’ rankings. It’s a great season when you can join up with your conference’s All-Star team every single night. Durant is simply a solid component of system, LeBron is the mastermind of his own.

1 Comment

  1. Pablo

    December 27, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Solid article (though this is weak: “Durant is simply a solid component of system, …”

    A strong argument COULD be made that LeBron is the MVP every year – no one does more for his team.

    As to the GOAT discussion …
    I’ve had LeBron moving up the All-Time list by one spot per year for a number of years now. Before this season began I had him behind only MJ and Kareem; with expectations that IF LeBron had another All-NBA team-selection season, he’d pass MJ into GOAT #2. This season is turning into a revelation, even by LBJ’s GOAT-level standards.

    Of particular interest to me is that he’s passing a number of MJ’s most important Regular Season marks (like: WinShares, Offensive WinShares & DefensiveWinShares and a number of other stats).

    Compared to virtually all other GOAT rankers, I place less emphasis on the Post Season / Playoffs. By size of sample, it is less than 10% of the Reg. Season. Then Play Off success is dependent on so many factors (injuries, match-ups, previous match-ups …).

    Personally I doubt that any other player in history (replacing LeBron) could have either taken that “D-League” team to the Finals nor, while missing two All-Stars, had a team-wise competitive Finals vs the Dubs.

    btw, my first “GOAT” was Mr. Basketball, George Mikan – I’m not old enough to have seen him play; but my dad was a “rabid” NBL … fan and “weaned” me on “all-things-Mikan”. It was universally accepted back then that Mikan was the GOAT and would ALWAYS remain the GOAT.

    That lasted until WilMyt’s first year in the NBA – it couldn’t have been clearer that Wilt was far Mikan’s superior; so that, as long as Wilt could stay healthy (with that body this was almost guaranteed) .. he’d absolutely bury Mikan.

    My first experience with Wilt was when I got to see him play for the Harlem Globetrotters a number of times LIVE. I “followed” him into the NBA for the (59-60 season. And have been a “rabid” NBA-ABA fan ever since.

    Wilt had “his turn” being considered the forever-GOAT; until Kareem dominated the League for a much greater number of years. By then, I had realized that this “forever-GOAT” thinking was fundamentally flawed (a “my generation” is best type of bias – that we see virtually “everywhere” – even from the players themselves).

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