The infamous LeBron vs Durant "rivalry" wasn't actually all that much of a rivalry. For as long as anyone can remember, LeBron has always been considered first. The spotlight was always on him, and he alone was recognized as the best in the game.
Meanwhile, Durant scoffed at his repeated reputation for being number 2.
When he went to Golden State, he was hoping all of that would change. With the Dubs, he found a team that could beat LeBron, and that's exactly what they did. Behind Durant's performance, the Warriors beat James and the Cavs two straight seasons.
Yet, LeBron was still considered better. In fact, the star-studded supporting cast around KD caused many to de-credit his success since joining the team, and it had a lot to do with his eventual departure in the summer of 2019.
According to Steve Kerr, Kevin Durant's need for recognition resulted in a draft from the team.
Simmons: “My theory — I’m not sure if I’m right — but I think he thought when he won the title that first year… and he really outdueled LeBron — I think leaving that series, people were like, ‘Wow, that guy was just better than LeBron in a Finals,’ — and he thought that was gonna be it: ‘KD made the right move.’
“And instead people were like, ‘F**k that guy, we’re still not giving it to you.’ And I could feel it in him in the interviews, this kind of, ‘What else do I have to do? I just went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and I won. What else do I have to do?'”
Kerr: “You nailed it. The same reason we got Kevin in the first place was the reason we lost him — he was restless. His first year with us, he was a sponge and he would ask questions constantly. It’s a very different style of play and he was playing with different players. I think he embraced it and he enjoyed it.
“The following year, I felt like Kevin started to drift. My feeling was he started to get restless, like, ‘This is all there is? We won the title last year, we’re rolling again this year, but whatever it is I’m searching for, I’m still not finding it.’
“We had a really good thing and then you could just feel it start to slip. And I don’t know if it was what you mentioned — Kevin felt like he was now the King of the NBA, but nobody was recognizing him for that. He dominated LeBron in those Finals.”
Simmons: “I could feel him — just in various interactions — really frustrated with that.”
Simmons: “Almost like, ‘I’m just never gonna get the credit for this, and I thought I would, and now I’m not. So now what?
Kerr: “Right, right. Yeah.”
It sounds as if Durant was seeking more than a Championship. He was looking for recognition, he was looking to be embraced by the community, the fans, and the league, for finally overtaking LeBron. He wanted to be King.
After tearing his Achilles, and subsequently leaving the Warriors in the weeks following, it's hard to say if KD will ever accomplish that goal. There is little doubt he will continue to try.