LeBron James is viewed as the best player in basketball, and that’s a title Kevin Durant is desperately trying to gain, it seems.
Ethan Strauss of The Athletic detailed why many think Durant will leave the Warriors and why that decision is impacted by James. One important part of his report: Strauss says Durant thought defeating James and the Cavs in the 2017 NBA Finals would have people labeling him No. 1 in the NBA.
From The Athletic:
Some teammates believe that his biggest successes are indivisible from what currently ails. Or moreover, the reception of such successes. Sources say that Durant believed his besting of LeBron James in the 2017 Finals would get him hailed as the game’s top player, a mantle he’s craved for some time. While LeBron averaged a 33.6 point-per-game triple-double in that Finals, Durant was superior defensively and hit the series’ biggest shot right in the King’s face.
Instead, there was no grand reordering of rankings, and only so much credit to be had for a dominant playoff run. KD, who was “tired of being second” way back in 2013, was still stuck there reputationally, even in ultimate victory. He was still behind LeBron in the eyes of pundits, basketball Twitter, and perhaps most importantly, at Nike, who’s employed Durant longer than any team. Then, th next Finals unfolded in much the same way, with much the same result, all while Warriors fans cheered loudest for the smaller MVP’s baskets.
MORE: Warriors worried about KD leaving?
Durant is known for not being able to handle criticism very well. He famously had the whole burner account situation — he’d anonymously defend himself from people online attacking his character. He’s even publicly responded to trolls on social media, which isn’t something most superstars have been caught doing.
And while all of this is great content for NBA Twitter to enjoy, it’s also interesting how it may play into Durant’s future. As Strauss notes, Durant’s desire to be the greatest means he may leave the Warriors to try and prove his worth on a roster that doesn’t look like an All-Star weekend lineup.
He’s in a great position to bring in championships every year, but he’s not in a great position to gain the recognition he apparently desires. But it’s not like anyone views Durant as a bad player. Most just don’t view him as above James, and for good reason.
Sure, Durant has won back-to-back NBA Finals MVPs, but it was pretty much expected. James stole the show by averaging a triple-double during the 2017 Finals. Of course people were going to keep him at No. 1.
So what’s next for KD? The obvious assumption is he leaves Golden State this summer to join the Knicks, who now have the cap space to bring him in. If Durant can help the Knicks win their first title since 1973, then he might be viewed more favorably in the eyes of some in the basketball community.
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