Australia’s Ben Simmons is only getting better!
Kevin Durant is an exceptionally good basketballer. LeBron James is also an exceptionally good basketballer.
Much has been made of the comparison between James and Michael Jordan. Much has also been made of Durant’s blistering form in the early stages of the NBA Finals.
Here’s the thing: the commentary about Durant’s form is far more valuable. James and Jordan can never be compared. Their stats have been compared exhaustively this year, but the 1990s was a very different era, and an era characteristic of a very different style of basketball. Arguably Jordan pioneered the kind of basketball that James now plays.
In that way, irrespective of what the stats tell us, James can never be Jordan. He can never be the first one to play the way he does, because that title belongs to Jordan. And of course there’s then the matter of two separate three-peat performances with a stint in minor league baseball in between. Just saying…
Further, James plays in an age of players very much like him. Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and of course Durant. Westbrook is a beast, Durant is a phenomenon, as this finals series has shown, and all this adds to the incomparability of Jordan and James.
Jordan stood out like few players ever have. Jordan played against players equally as talented but totally unlike him – think Larry Bird, Dennis Rodman and Dikembe Mutumbo. The superstars of the 1990s were varied. Today’s superstars are homogenous.
I’ve watched LeBron James play a lot of basketball this year. His talent is undeniable, but he’ll never be MJ, and to suggest otherwise is a huge insult to James, Jordan and all the other superstars that have shared the court with both Jordan and James.
But enter Kevin Durant.
So far in this finals series neither the Cavs nor James have had any answers for Durant’s size and agility. In tandem with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, it’s even harder to handle. My theory is that Durant has taken all the talk about James being the greatest of all time personally and he’s out to prove that there’s someone else in the conversation. So far he’s doing okay.
I guess time will tell, but on top of all this the Warriors’ dominance this series has been due to their ability to play as a team better than the Cavs. JR Smith has been dirty from in and out and Kyrie Irving has been a shadow of his show-stealing self from last year. The irony of that does not escape me, because better team play was how the Cavs won the championship against the Warriors last year as underdogs.
I commented last year that the Warriors were one-trick ponies because their game plan relied on sinking exorbitant amounts of threes. I questioned if their downtown style could win a championship, and I felt somewhat vindicated when the Cavs’ team play – involving all 10 guys – proved superior. This year it’s a different ball game, so to speak. The Warriors have added Durant and boy oh boy does he change the dynamic of that team.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are on notice. Kevin Durant is not okay with you believing that this year’s finals series is all about LeBron James and his comparative status to Michael Jordan. He’s here to make a statement.