First off, this is a ridiculous question and the fact it’s picked up this much steam for the four talking idiots heads on Around the Horn to debate tells you that it’s clearly the NBA offseason. But let’s get to the bottom of this thing. Up front, to be clear: LEBRON JAMES IS A BETTER PLAYER… RIGHT NOW. Nobody would argue with that. Unless they are related to KD or maybe on his payroll.
On Around the Horn today, Jay Mariotti said it was “absolutely crazy” and laughed it off as if he was offended to even be asked; Kevin Blackistone said no way, but he can see it in the future (being the only one to actually kind of answer the question); Bill Plaschke talked and stuttered so fast I could barely understand him, but ended up saying it was stupid to even think Durant was better; and Woody Paige did something HILARIOUS in which I fell on the floor laughing at his outrageous antics. It was all great television.
And I wouldn’t have disagreed with them one bit, had they answered the question properly. Let’s review what Sam Smith said that started this whole ridiculous debate.
It’s being whispered now among NBA types because, I believe, under a secret NBA/ESPN provision you are not permitted to say aloud anything that might be interpreted to suggest LeBron James isn’t the best thing to ever happen in anyone’s life.
Well that sentence was fairly prophetic, especially considering the way the four panelists on ESPN reacted today to the question.
But sitting in the stands in Las Vegas at the USA Basketball mini-camp and hearing NBA coaches and general managers, the gasps have been for Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant.
Understandably so. Durant was clearly the best player in Vegas last week. He was an amazing talent last year and by all accounts, he’s even better now. How freaking scary (in the best way possible) is that? Note: This paragraph isn’t implying the gasps have NOT been for LeBron and that KD has stolen the spotlight, because LeBron, you know, wasn’t there. And now, the key sentence:
I’ve now heard more than one say Durant could be a better player than James given Durant’s combination of amazing size at about 6-10 and pure shooting stroke.
Emphasis on “could be.” COULD. BE. COULDBE. Does that mean “better than right now?” No, it does not. It means that Durant COULD BE a better player than James. Maybe that means this upcoming season. Maybe that means in five years. Maybe that means when we reflect on their careers in 25 years. Who knows? But people have reacted to this as if Smith said, “Kevin Durant is the best basketball player on the planet for forever. Forget LeBron, Kobe, MJ in his prime or even Shawn Kemp on NBA Jam. KD is everything they wish they were.” Would it be outrageous to say that after the outstanding rookie campaign he had that Matt Ryan COULD BE better than Peyton Manning? Or that Matt Wieters COULD BE better than Joe Mauer? Now it would be looney toons to say Kyle Orton could be better than Manning because Neck Beard hasn’t shown you anything to remotely think that. But KD averaged 25.3 ppg in his second season at an incredibly efficient clip. So to say he could be better than LeBron is not psycho in any way.
And he’s still 20. The feeling is Durant is on the brink of being a 30 per game scorer. Plus, Durant is a serious worker. The Bulls’ Derrick Rose has become close with Durant and the two have worked out together considerably this summer. Said Rose, who is five days younger than Durant: “KD is great. He’s real talented. I look at him as like a big brother to me even though we’re the same age. He’s been in the league longer. He’s a great talent, 6-10 guy who can dribble, shoot like a guard. He’s going to be a great talent in the league.”
Not too much to add on here, but that paragraph is awesome to read over and over again.
Look, nobody is crazy enough to say Kevin Durant > LeBron James right now, . And at this point, it’s kind of dumb to even compare the two period. Different players playing different roles. It’s really not all that fair to compare Kobe and LeBron. Lord knows we’re all sick of that question. And while I appreciate the pub for Durant to get compared to LBJ, I don’t want to spend the next 10 years debating this moronic question. Why can’t two guys be really, really awesome at basketball without being compared?
As a scorer, yeah, KD is probably more talented. As a distributor that makes his team better, obviously LeBron. As a defender, Durant has a ways to go. But he’s just 20 and as long and tall as KD is, I don’t think even he can touch his ceiling. LeBron is truly a once in a lifetime athletic specimen that does unreal things on the basketball court. They’re both very good at what they do. Isn’t that enough?
Sportswriters have to write and commentators have to commentate, but this whole thing is kind of a dumb question. And it gets dumber when you don’t actually answer the question that was asked. LeBron or Durant? I don’t know and honestly, I don’t really even care.