KD – The New King in Town


When I first heard the news, I was just as shocked as all of you. Kevin Durant, the league leading scorer and reigning KIA Most Valuable Player, fractured a bone in his right foot, and is expected to miss about six weeks. The sad part is that Kevin Durant was playing at such a high level for such a long period of time, which was basically the entire 2013 – 2014 season. However, this injury will only propel Kevin Durant in his journey to win an NBA Championship. Looking deeper into the psyche of Mr. Durant, this will be the year that Kevin Durant definitively passes LeBron James for the right to be called the best basketball player in the world. Over the past two years, Kevin Durant’s basketball prowess and skillset have expanded rapidly, and last year, he was slightly better than LeBron James. While reviewing their performances from last season, one can come to the conclusion that Kevin Durant was better than LeBron James over the course of the season because he beat LeBron James in countless statistical categories, he led his team to greater heights than LeBron James did, and numerous analysts have stated that he simply was better than LeBron James.

When it comes to the cold hard statistics, which were provided by ESPN.com, Kevin Durant dominated LeBron. Durant averaged a highly impressive, league leading, 32.0 points per game last year, while LeBron James scored a much lower 27.1 points per game. That added up to Kevin Durant scoring over 505 more points than LeBron James last season! To add some perspective, the scoring average for an entire team per game last season in the NBA was 101.0 points. Additionally, his free throw shooting percentage and three point field goal percentages, 87.3% and 39.1%, were better than LeBron’s statistics in those categories, which were 75.0% and 37.9% respectively. While Kevin Durant averaged 8.9 rebounds per game in the postseason, which is otherwise known as the playoffs, LeBron James did not help his team on the glass as much, and he only averaged 7.1 rebounds per game. Finally, Durant was a bigger defensive presence during the playoffs for his team; he had 1.3 blocks per game in the postseason, whereas LeBron had a measly 0.7 blocks per game. Also, it is important to remember that Kevin Durant was crowned the 2014 KIA Most Valuable Player, or MVP of the NBA; that was a competition in which LeBron finished second to Durant, which is just a foreshadow of what is to come this season.

Plus, Durant was able to lead his team to greater heights than LeBron did. The difference between the 2013 – 2014 season and other previous years for Durant was the development of his leadership skills, and doing more than leading by example. He really began to mature last season as a full-fledged coach in many ways. Kevin Durant’s team, The Oklahoma City Thunder, finished with the second best record in the NBA with a regular season record of 59 wins and 23 losses. LeBron’s Miami Heat finished with a lesser winning percentage, as they only had 54 wins and 28 losses. Durant had naturally willed his team to win more games than LeBron did, with Durant being the leading scorer of his team. Additionally, Durant helped his team more than LeBron did; the Thunder were 3.0 net points better per 100 possessions when Durant was on the court, while the Heat were just 1.2 net points better per 100 possessions when LeBron was playing (Wu 7) As far as the postseason goes, both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the San Antonio Spurs. However, there was a different outcome in terms of who put up a better fight in each of the best-of-seven games series. The Miami heat lost in five games to the Spurs, whereas the Thunder won one more game against the Spurs than the Heat did, losing in 6 games. One of the biggest steps that Kevin Durant took this season was that he was a better leader in that he led by example. It is because of his help that his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, had a better season than the team led by LeBron James, the Miami Heat.

To add, the second highest scorer on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook, missed 36 games during the regular season. During that time frame, Kevin Durant had to take even more of a scoring load on his shoulders, and each night he had to play extra minutes to compensate for the scoring and rebounding absence of his teammate. He took one for the team and never complained once about having to do this for a period of about three months. It is this kind of exertion that led to his foot injury, but the thing that is probably the most likeable about Kevin Durant, and believe me, this is a long, long list, is his willingness to do whatever it takes to win and to work with his teammates in order to be as successful as possible. This includes waking up every morning at 5:00am in order to get an extra workout session in, or, especially this year with him being sidelined for a month, Kevin Durant staying multiple hours late after every practice in order to review game film with the coaching staff and to analyze his own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of his teammates.

While it is important to consider that Kevin Durant was better than LeBron statistically, the opinions of analysts must not be neglected, and that is a category in which Durant blew James out of the water. Jon Wu is a sports analyst from the Bleacher Report who has consistently raved about Durant’s abilities, and how Durant has caught up to and even surpassed LeBron. When comparing Durant and LeBron’s as defenders he stated, “LeBron hasn’t been the game – altering one people have expected him to be.” As far as his comments on Durant, he had much more positive comments. “Durant on the other hand, is making his mark defensively. According to John Wu, he utilizes his lankiness to his advantage, using his long arms to clog the passing lanes and contest shots.”  When talking about the PER of Durant and LeBron,  Wu was explaining again how once again Durant was better than LeBron. Player efficiency rating, or PER, is a statistic that measures nearly all of a players statistics, including basic and advanced ones, and it turns them into a number, which represents how “good” a player is. Mr. Wu went on to say how Durant had the highest PER in the league by almost two points, 31.1 to 29.3, stealing that honor from LeBron, who had owned the title of having the highest PER in the league for the past two years . He finished by mentioning that Durant had a lower defensive rating that LeBron, 101 compared to LeBron’s 105(the lower the rating the better), and that “Durant has been a better defender than LeBron.”  To add, Chris Hanneke, another sports analyst, was on the Kevin Durant bandwagon, raving about how contrary to belief, Durant’s defensive abilities majorly improved and surpassed LeBron’s declining defensive abilities. He stated how Durant had a major advantage over LeBron in a category known as defensive win shares, a statistic which estimates the number of wins a player produces for his team due to his defensive abilities. In this category, Kevin Durant’s defensive win shares were 2.9 wins, while LeBron’s was a much smaller 1.8 wins (Defensive win shares are an advanced NBA stat that is calculated based on how many wins during a season a player contributes towards his team due to his defensive abilities). He went on to state that Durant came on strong this season and developed into a much more mature player that overtook LeBron this season. The analysts love him, I think he’s pretty awesome, and you probably do too! But seriously, what’s not to like about this guy?

Kevin Durant’s game has been nurtured for several years, and every year he has significantly improved since he came in the league. Although a minor foot injury has sidelined him so far this season, by Kevin Durant’s basketball skillset and his high basketball intelligence quotient, along with his extra dedication to the game are the things that will allow him to surpass LeBron James as the best player in the world. Although many argue that LeBron James has more championship wins and MVP awards than Kevin Durant, and that due to this fact, this comparison is not even plausible, that comparison is illegitimate because while LeBron has been in the league for 11 years, Kevin Durant has only been in the league for 7 years, and therefore he has had less time than LeBron to win awards and championships. This goes on to LeBron James is nicknamed “The King” because he is often considered the best basketball player in the game. However, all good things come to an end.  LeBron James can have an entire month by himself, but once Kevin Durant returns to the court, LeBron will have to bow down to the current king in town. That young, charismatic man, a future Hall-of-Famer,  is the one, the only, Kevin Durant.

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