There can only be one winner. There can a bunch of losers, though. Like, there are so many losers. They’re all over the place. Look around, everyone, they’re everywhere. There goes one right across the street. But there can only be one winner.
Kevin Durant went and lit January fires in gyms throughout the league. The scenes after his games, his Rucker lockout majesty having been brought to NBA life all over a bunch of pros, were feverish. People were beside themselves that they were going to get to have a proper MVP race.
You mean it’s not going to be LeBron running away with it?! Well, let me take to the television to shout about it some! I shall be seen! And heard! This suit?! Thank you! It’s new! Exclamation points!
And Durant’s constant deflection of their questions about his destruction, his refusal to be a ringmaster for even a moment, only got the masses more hype. Durant has long favored being unassuming over being any kind of brash. It makes him boring and predictable at times, his answers pulled from some stock Sam Presti cue cards he was given right after he was drafted, but he’s consistent. If you’re looking for Durant to shout around about how great he is, you’ll probably be looking for a good while.
The humility! How very selfless of him! Let me massage his shoulders! I’ll rub his feet! I’ve got his calves!
Durant was the embodiment of an Eminem lyric after those January games. He’d stand there, ankle deep in the ashes of an arena he just burned to the ground, can of gas in one hand, handful of matches in the other, and wasn’t a soul mad about it.
That January was fun and, at least for Thunder fans, will be remembered for a long time. It’s been a minute since somebody up and made pre-All Star break, regular season basketball appointment viewing, but Durant did it. The world was getting to watch the second best player in the game come closer to becoming fully realized. And when it became a possibility that he passed up the best player in the game in the MVP discussion, well, then it’s megaphone time.
It’s Durant’s award now! Not only is he more valuable than LeBron, he might just be flat out better! What about this nickname?! Ummm, pretty good, but what about this one?! He needs a nickname! Let’s fill air time talking about a nickname! Great! I love nicknames! Nicknames are dope! What about Skinny Pete?! Can we call him that?! Breaking Bad was a great show!
But the world likes to #embracedebate. We have to give ears to and honor the shouts and screams of men who end every sentence in an exclamation point and probably, realistically, still color and highlight their hair. Because as much as the world likes it when the best player gets knocked down a peg, it loves it just as much when he starts to fight back. And so LeBron’s 61 happens and the analytical collective of our NBA country decides to be bold and say “Ummmmm, remember this guy? Yea, I guess he’s still pretty good”.
This race is even now! We got some excitement on our hands! And you know Durant’s numbers are about to take a nosedive with Westbrook coming back! LeBron’s rising up now! Showing the world how much better than Durant he is! Did I tell you I birdied seventeen the other day?! I’m also thinking of getting a new tattoo!!! It will be a picture of Judy but she’ll have dollar signs for teeth!!!
People talk as if Durant and LeBron playing quality basketball were mutually exclusive. If one of them is playing good ball the other can’t be because in order to say one of them does good things I have to say one of them does bad things. Their whole color wheel is equipped with two colors: black and white. There is no grey. There can’t possibly be.
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It was coming all along. We were always one chest pounding, runaway mutant rhino from Akron dunking on the heads of an entire planet game away from everyone trying to talk themselves into LeBron as a frontrunner for MVP again. This is the sports world we live in now. No two things can exist as good at the same time. Again, if one of them is good, the other must be bad.
If people are honest with themselves and they look at the two players’ stats from the last month, the one where LeBron was “making up ground”, they’ll realize that LeBron isn’t exactly closing the gap as quickly as some of the shouting would suggest. Royce gave you these numbers in the player power rankings but here they are again to save you some clicks.
Durant’s February numbers look like this: 33.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.4 assists.
LeBron’s look like this: 30.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 6.7 assists.
Both are fantastic lines. If February was some deciding factor as some tried to make it, Durant’s still got the edge, but the simple fact is there’s a lot of basketball left. Durant didn’t win the MVP in January with all those 40 point outbursts and LeBron didn’t somehow catapult himself into the frontrunner position by putting up 61 on a, playoff bound or not, mediocre Bobcats squad.
The marathon is still being run. Let’s just wait till the end to see who came out ahead. They’re both having amazing seasons and we get to watch these transcendent performances in real time. We don’t have to experience these guys solely through stories from our fathers explaining how good they were in their prime. We’re all alive. We’re all getting to watch this greatness.