Any knowledgeable or logical fan of the game of basketball would likely tell you the two best players in the world right now are LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
They also happen to be leading the two best teams in the league at the moment (Sorry Spurs and Rockets) and squared off once again on Christmas Day as the Warriors pulled out a 99-92 win over the Cavaliers at home.
Durant’s Warriors defeated LeBron’s Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA Finals as well and during that series after Durant hit a huge three-point shot over LeBron to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead in the series he said that it felt like a “passing the torch” moment from LeBron to him.
Leading up to the Christmas rematch Durant wanted to add some clarification to his statement from this past June (or backtrack a little bit) and he did so with Mark Medina of the Mercury News:
“I saw a lot of people took that out of context: What I’m saying is when somebody passes the torch, they’re letting you in the room,” Durant said. “You got LeBron. You got [Dwyane Wade]. You got [Carmelo Anthony]. You got Paul Pierce. You got Larry Bird. You got Dr. J all in a room. It’s my turn to be in there with them and enjoy being one of the best players in the world. It wasn’t the fact that I took it from LeBron and he’s gone now. Obviously he’s still around.”
“Accolades and accomplishments and legacy and all that stuff and how they mean to people, I can’t talk on that,” Durant said. “But as far as basketball skills are concerned? I’m on the same level. I feel like that moment was [LeBron] saying, ‘Welcome.”
If we want to split hairs here and really analyze this statement there should be a number of rooms (or tiers) among this group: LeBron is in a room of his own at this point, Larry Bird is in the next room by himself and Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce and Dr. J are in a 3rd room. Carmelo Anthony is expecting to get in but hasn’t been let in by security and Dwyane Wade is in a completely different building altogether because he is a shooting guard.
Kevin Durant is going to end up right alongside LeBron James and Larry Bird as the best players to ever play the small forward position in the NBA (Scottie Pippen deserves recognition too), but still despite his incredible skill level and improved play-making and rim protecting ability, he is not quite the complete player that LeBron James is and therefore on his level generally but still not quite 100% there technically.
By video game standards, LeBron James is a 99 and Durant is a 97.
That being said, he did slightly outplay LeBron in last year’s finals and outplayed him on Christmas Day this year as well. He also may actually pass LeBron as the league’s premier player in the next couple of years, unless LeBron is really a robot and will dominate the league for another decade, you can’t rule anything out at this point.