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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kevin Durant and Lebron James: How Different Paths Forshadow an OKC Championship - Bleacher Report

Superhuman athlete. Once in a generation talent. The King at 19. The Cav, the Heat, the Hero and the Goat. Not the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All time), but the literal goat. Lebron James has been the most polarizing and widely acclaimed basketball player since he entered the NBA with the intention to save his hometown Cavaliers many years ago. When the opportunity to leave presented itself, jerseys were switched, hopes were dashed and animosity ensued.

Too skinny. Too lanky. Bad city, pathetic team. Shooting guard? Not good enough. Center, not big enough. Power forward, not built enough. Moving from Seattle to OKC. Starting a season 3-21. Playoff humiliation. Kevin Durant has had a wildly different path to start his NBA career. Before the opportunity to test free agency arose, Durant signed his four-year extension because he was confident in his team.

In these NBA Finals, the two best teams with the two best players meet up for the glory. Lebron hand picked his teammates. Kevin trusted team management leadership. Lebron has arguably the best number two in NBA history. Kevin has that shoot-often, pass-weary, rambunctious point guard. Lebron has a coach that cannot coach. Kevin has this generation's Popovich.

Regardless of the outcome in game one, one thing has been wickedly clear in  these playoffs. When push comes to shove, Kevin comes to play. Call it what you wantâ€"clutch, Jordan-esque, Kobe-esque, moneyâ€"but, the dude balls out when his team needs him. And most importantly, even though the team revolves around his greatness, he trusts his teammates with the game on the line. He led his team to 12 wins and three losses against the three best Western conference teams in the past 15 years with maybe the best three players of their timeless generation: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki.

Lebron has a different tune. Here and there, his statistics this postseason have been gaudy and video game-like. At other times, he has vanished. He forces shots even if teammates are open, misses game-clinching buckets as the clock ticks to zero and has little to no trust in anyone on his team not named Wade. Forget about that coach of his.

What is most ironic about the Lebron and Durant discussion is that we have finally found the single rivalry we have been hoping for. Jordan out-Jordaned everyone. Kobe out-Kobed everyone. But Lebron and Durant are the closest to what we have to Jordan and Kobe. Between them, when it's all said and done, each will have their share of championships and MVP's. But, in the here and now, Kevin Durant will be crowned a world champion next week and will begin his quest of becoming the G.O.A.T.

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