For four of the last five seasons, the highly coveted NBA MVP award has been deservedly bestowed upon LeBron James. It made sense, as King James was unmistakably the most talented basketball player on the planet. LeBron has had the reputation of being a do-it-all player, a physical specimen, a scorer, a rebounder, a passer, an imposing defender, and a team leader. The only player to even come close to resembling a threat to James’ growing MVP trophy collection has been Kevin Durant, a somewhat one-dimensional scorer who has been the runner up in MVP voting during three of James’ four tenures. This season, however, Durant has had enough of being second best.
Perhaps LeBron has grown weary from his notoriously tireless work ethic, one that demands playing through nagging injuries, brushing aside the psychological burden spawned from relentless media scrutiny, and “offseasons” that in reality have been times of grueling conditioning programs installed by James himself. Whatever the cause, it would appear that there is about to be an usurpation of the throne, and Kevin Durant is ready to wear the crown.
Both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder have had their fair share of injuries down the stretch. Kevin Durant lost his trusty sidekick, Russell Westbrook, to a knee injury for a lengthy portion of the regular season. James, on the other hand, has been forced to carry the Heat on his back in the frequent absence of the oft-injured Dwayne Wade. With the increased brunt of responsibility and spotlight on Durant and James, a prime opportunity to see what each player is made of has surfaced. This time around, Durant has taken his game to a different level, and is undoubtedly more deserving of this year’s MVP award.
In essence, Durant has beaten James at his own game, fashioning himself as the most complete all-around player in the league. The Thunder captain is averaging 32 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. His scoring has been some of the most efficient we have seen in decades, and has even surpassed Michael Jordan in a newsworthy streak of 25 or more points in 41 straight games.
James, on the other hand, has seen a bit of a dip in his numbers and efforts. The two-time champion has appeared less intense, fiery, and energized this season compared to previous years. This lack of effort shows in his 26.9 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists a game, which, though impressive, is overshadowed by the surging numbers of Durant.
Thus is the story of the sporting world. It appears as though we are witnessing the beginning of the passing of the guard. And though basketball fans have been treated to years of a clash of the titans in a rivalry that has reached Magical Johnson vs. Larry Bird proportions, Kevin Durant is beginning to surpass James, an 11-year veteran. While LeBron is nearing the waning years of his career, the 25-year-old Durant is still evolving, still improving, and just beginning his reign as King.