Only two big names echoed in the NBA community before Stephen Curry could establish his name and dominance in the league. Kevin Durant and LeBron James. The two were the most discussed athletes at one time. Mainly because of their sheer abilities and generational talent in the game. Although KD considered himself close to LeBron James, there have been moments where the two have competed ferociously against each other. In one instance, he even called James’ environment ‘toxic.’ However, KD started drawing attention when he compared himself and LeBron to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s rivalry in 2013.
In 2018, when LeBron was leaving Cleveland for Los Angeles, an old statement emerged where KD called LeBron’s environment at the Cavaliers toxic. During that time, Durant called his former Brooklyn Nets teammate Kyrie Irving one of the reasons for the toxicity surrounding James. Kyrie Irving’s controversial opinions, which intruded into the lives of other players beyond the court, became well-known. Perhaps, this is why LeBron couldn’t find the same chemistry with Cleveland, which forced him to move to Los Angeles.
Kevin Durant once compared himself and LeBron James to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s rivalry
A Sports Illustrated Vault post attributed a similar status to KD and LeBron James as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. And with this, Kevin Durant seemed highly pleased. He looked up to LeBron’s performances and strived to improve, seeing his box scores and match clips. This excerpt from the article well explains the comparison between KD and James.
“James already passed like Magic, but Durant started to pass like Bird. They hopped on parallel evolutionary tracks, advancing in the same manner at the same time. When a quote from James is relayed—’He’s my inspiration. We’re driving one another’—Durant nods in approval. It’s as if the finest poets in the world are also each other’s muses.”
Kevin Durant has admitted that although he did not watch many other basketball games, he never failed to look at LeBron’s box score. He studied every rebound, shot, and assist by James and could precisely note how the King performed those feats on the court. Kevin Durant is one of the best students of basketball, even taking one of his rivalries as a moment for self-improvement. Adding further about his competition with Bron, Durant said:
“People see two young black basketball players at the top of their game and think we should clash. They want the conflict. They want the hate. They forget Bird cried for Magic. A friend was getting on me about this recently, and I said, ‘Calm down. I’m not taking it easy on him. Don’t you know I’m trying to destroy the guy every time I go on the court?’”
The article came out during the 2013 Playoffs, one year after LeBron’s Miami Heat took down KD’s Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1. The Heat won their second title in 2012 and consecutively brought in another title with LeBron at their helm in 2013.
Kevin Durant and LeBron haven’t faced off since 2018
Although KD and LeBron’s faceoffs have always been a show, it has been five years since we saw their intense rivalry on the court. The last time they faced off was in 2018, when LeBron’s Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors 127-101 on Christmas Day. While James put up a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, Durant scored 21 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds and made seven assists.
The following 12 times when Lakers faced KD’s team, either James or Durant was sidelined from the roster for injury or some other reason. For example, LeBron had a chance to face KD this year in March. However, both James and Durant were sidelined due to their injury issues. Perhaps, we might finally see them take on each other in the upcoming regular season when the Suns face the Lakers.