Has Their NBA Heated Rivalries Made These Two All-Time Greats Better Than They Would Have Been Without Each Other?
It is often said the greatest sports players of all time were pushed to achieve more by their rivals.
Payton Manning and Brett Farve pushed Tom Brady to break record after record. Messi and Ronaldo are still challenging each other for the title of greatest soccer player of all time.
And LeBron James and Kevin Durant have been doing something similar for the last 2 decades. Today, we are going to look at their rivalry and discover if it is the greatest rivalry the NBA has ever seen.
Who Is Kevin Durant?
Kevin Wayne Durant is a 33-year-old professional basketball player. He is 6 foot 10 inches and plays Small Forward and Power Forward for the Brooklyn Nets.
Durant is a 2-time NBA Finals Champion (2017 and 2018), he was also named the MVP in both of those matches. He won both of those titles with the Golden State Warriors.
He was named Rookie of the Year in 2008 and has been named to every single All-Stars team since 2010 (there was no All-Stars game in 2020 due to Coronavirus).
Durant was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007 and was the second pick overall that year. He spent 9 years playing for this team, before moving to the Golden State Warriors in 2016, and then onto the Brooklyn Nets in 2019.
Durant has won 3 gold medals at the Olympics for Team USA. He also won a gold medal with the same team at the Basketball World Championships in 2010.
Durant is part of the 50–40–90 club.
When he first started playing, Durant’s game lacked in many areas, however, he has grown to be one of the best playmakers in the NBA.
The Nets are currently sitting at 8th in the NBA Eastern Conference, and have a chance to qualify for the playoffs. Find the best NBA betting odds on this and the rest of the NBA here.
Who Is LeBron James?
LeBron James is a 4-time NBA Finals champion (2012, 2013, 2016, 2020), like Durant, he was named the MVP in all the Finals matches he won (2012, 2013, 2016, 2020).
James was also named the NBA League MVP 4-times (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013). He has been named an All-Star for the last 18 years in a row. He has been named All-Stars MVP 3 times (2006, 2008, 2018). He was also named Rookie of the Year in 2004.
James was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. He played with them between 2003–2010 and 2014–2018 – he won the NBA Finals once with this team. He played for Miami Heat between 2010-2014, winning the NBA with them twice. In 2019 he moved to Los Angeles Lakers and won the NBA title with them in 2020.
James won a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics with Team USA. This was one of only 3 times the USA has not won gold in Men’s Basketball since 1936. He went on to win Gold at both the Beijing and London Olympics. He played in the London Team with Durant.
James vs Durant – The Rivalry
When it comes to the statistics, James has Durant beat in every category but one – Durant has been the NBA scoring leader 4 times, and James has only done it once.
Apart from that one category, LeBron James outshines Durant in every way. While Durrant has played 5 fewer seasons than LeBron, James has scored 36,612 to Durant’s 24,936.
Lebron has 9 more All-Stars invites, 2 more NBA titles, 4 more NBA MVP titles, 6 more invites to the All-Defensive Team. We could go on.
When you compare Durant to someone like James, he seems like he has had a quiet career – but that is more of a testament to LeBron James’ success than anything else.
Other NBA Heated Rivalries – Michael Jordan vs Isiah Thomas
Problems started between these two players in Jordan’s rookie season when Thomas tried to have him boycotted in the 1985 All-Star Game. After this, the games between the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons became must-watch matches – even for the neutrals.
Between 1988 and 1990, the Bulls lost 3 consecutive playoff matches to the Pistons (who were known at the time as the “bad boys”). In 1991, The Bulls beat them in the conference final.
Things became so bad between the pair that Thomas was not invited to join the 1992 Olympic team because he and Jordan would not play together.
Other NBA Heated Rivalries – Kobe Bryant VS Shaquille O’Neal
Together, the pair led their team to back-to-back-to-back victories at the NBA finals (2000, 2001, 2002). The pair struck fear into the hearts of anyone who played against them.
However, when Shaq left the Los Angeles Lakers to play for the Heat things started to sour.
The Heat went on to win 2 NBA titles with Shaq soon after. When Kobe won his fifth title later on all he had to say was that he had now won more than Shaq.
This story does have a happy(ish) ending, as the pair admitted that they had buried the hatchet before Bryant’s untimely and tragic death in 2020.
After his friend’s death, Shaq posted online “There are no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my niece Gigi & my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you and you will be missed.”
He also broke down live on television when reflecting on the years that they had spent playing together.