“I feel like it’s easy to be the best player when you don’t have good players around you”. That’s what Kevin Durant said this past June, a not-so-subtle jab at LeBron’s lackluster supporting cast on the Cavs.
Now, we may never know whether Durant actually believes that or if he said it to try and defend himself from joining the already-stacked Warriors, but the gist of what Durant says in that quote is “I’m better than LeBron”.
KD is NOT better than LeBron. At least, not at this point in his career. If he really wants to be better than LBJ and the best player in the modern era, there are a lot of things he needs to happen. Make a checklist, Kevin, and get started.
1. LeBron Drops Off. Fast.
The average peak in a player’s career is what? 8 years at best? LeBron’s has been 14 and counting. He’s not human. Last year he played by far the most minutes in the league while carrying his team to the NBA finals. He played in all 82 games. He’s 33 years old. The only thing more impressive than how high his peak has been (right up there with Michael Jordan’s) is how long it is. He really hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
So for Durant to have a shot at being better than LeBron, the first requirement is totally out of his control. Maybe it’s this season, maybe it’s next, but LeBron needs to lose all of his basketball powers. Not just slowly drop off like every NBA player does as they age, but his abilities need to fall over a waterfall (imagine post-alien-stealing-powers Charles Barkley in Space Jam).
2. All-Time Leading Scorer
The only real basketball category you can argue KD is better than LeBron in is scoring. With that being said, LeBron is arguably the most consistent scorer ever, and being the NBA's all-time leading scorer is easily within his grasp.
What does Durant have to do then? He has to become the most prolific scorer in NBA history. By the time he is done his career – if he wants to be seen as better than LeBron – he better be sitting at #1 on the all-time scoring list, with either LeBron or Kareem a distant #2. to be seen as better than LeBron – he better be sitting at #1 on the all-time scoring list, with either LeBron or Kareem a distant #2.
3. Leave Golden State
This is the real make-or-break on the list. Durant will never be talked about in the same sentence as LeBron by any NBA fans with any intelligence unless he leaves Golden State. Soon. Having four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA on the same team (including 2 of the top 4) has made Durant seem less impressive than he actually is.
We see him as a cog in a machine instead of his true self – a 7’ sniper built like Mr. Fantastic and with the ball-handling of a point-guard. To see what Durant can really do, he needs to be on his own team and do two more things.
4. Win Two Championships
Championships are not all equal, and the only two that Durant has at this point are probably two of the cheapest and least significant in NBA history (See also – any championship won in the 60s by Boston). Durant teaming up with the Warriors while just at the start of his prime is like Michael Jordan joining Detroit in the 1990 season, except if Detroit was better.
Durant needs to leave the Bay for another team and win a few meaningful championships. I’m talking about championships he earned, instead of just teaming up with the schoolyard bully, even though the bully was already by far the biggest kid at the school. He doesn’t have to go join some team like the Hawks, but just a team where he can fully stretch out those Gumby arms and carry a good team like LeBron has had too.
5. Win Two More MVP Awards
If KD leaves Golden State, another few MVPs are basically his. He has all the talent in the world, but he is not using it to it’s full, back-against-the-wall capabilities. The other problem is, KD is 30 before this season starts. His prime could be almost over – LeBron is the exception, not the rule. If that’s the case, Durant better sits down and think about what is valuable to him.
If he wants to win easy championships, then stay where he is; but, if he wants to be in the GOAT conversation, it may be time for a change.