We are living in a great time for basketball.
When Jordan left the league, the NBA lacked a transcendent star, a player who made you wonder each time that you watched him, if you were witnessing the greatest ever.
We did have a host of electrifying and otherworldly players that teased us.
We had Shaq, whose superior size and strength bullied opposing defenders into submission, but the big fella was often out of shape and never developed aspects of his game that extended farther than five feet from the hoop. We had a lot of fun with Shaq, and he with us, but in a league filled with weak centers, a 7’1″ 325 lb behemoth should have won more than one regular season MVP.
We had Iverson, one of my favorite players of all time, whose reckless abandon for his body, blinding quickness, and balletic agility are the stuff of legend. But, Iverson lacked the right mentality and talked his way out of the league. The former MVP spent the twilight years of his career overseas, when he should have been a valuable cog on a contender.
We had Duncan, who is the greatest power forward of all time and has led the Spurs to a ludicrous above .700 winning percentage for his entire career. But as great as Duncan is, he never captured our hearts.
We had Dirk and Garnett, both game-changing power forwards, who shined on above average teams for years until seizing their shot at the title. But these two, for whatever reason, never took over the league for more than a year or so.
We had Kobe, who gave 95 cents on the dollar of Jordan at points in his career. But, Kobe figured out the team dynamic too late and by the time he had a decent supporting cast and the right mentality, he was thirty, racking up titles in the later parts of his prime.
We even had Steve Nash give us some of the most exciting basketball ever seen, but Nash never made the Finals, and as impressive as this average sized Canadian was, he lacked the size and athleticism to truly dominate the game.
But that was then, and this is now. And now, we have two bonafide superstars in our wake.
Lebron James and Kevin Durant.
Lebron has won MVP four of the last five years (remember when we gave the MVP to D-Rose because Lebron was mean to Cleveland?) and has the ability to dominate games like few before him. He has the athleticism of Wolverine, can play any position, and excels at every facet of the game. He invented the bring-the-ball-as-far-back-as-fucking-possible-and-then-rip-the-rim-off dunk. He’s building an impressive resume of classic moments; his game winner against Golden State and his 61 point performance against Charlotte have come in the past few weeks alone.
Furthermore, he’s silenced the haters by becoming one of the most clutch players in basketball. Remember in Game Six of the Finals when Lebron air-balled a three, got it back, and drained one from the same spot? Without that play, Ray Allen never sinks that miraculous game-winner and cements himself as the greatest shooter ever. Lebron failed as miserably as possible on the biggest stage, but then demanded the ball back, and delivered. THAT is a superstar. He’s got the perfect mindset, the perfect body, and the perfect skills. He is a laboratory experiment to build the greatest basketball player gone terribly, terribly right.
And for a while it looked as though no one would approach the throne of King James. It was him, about twenty feet, Durant, about fifty more feet and then everyone else. But this year, KD has made the leap and is now breathing down Lebron’s neck. The MVP award that was Lebron’s at the beginning of the season, has been gravitating towards Durant with each 30+ point performance that he delivers.
This season, Durant has nearly joined the 50/40/90 club while averaging over 30 points a game, 7 boards, and 5 dimes. Durant handles the ball like a guard, has the height of a center, and the jumper of a Serbian. He loves to sink the big shot, and stare deep into the cavity where the other team’s soul used to be, before he sucked it out. He also has the FUCKIN’ SWAG to show up to Rucker Park and score 66 points, including four three pointers in a row to seal the game for his team. Kevin Durant is a bad man.
These two are what the Monstars would have looked like if they had taken the talents of Magic and Bird.
Optimistically, we could have another decade of these two titans battling one another in epic Finals match-ups, where each of them is pushed by the other to the fullest extent of their abilities. Over that decade, it will be a joy to watch these players age.
Lebron has polished his game to a glistening shine, but at 29, has nearly maxed out his massive potential. However, Lebron will age like a fine wine due to his cyborg body and will adopt a more cerebral game, much like Kobe, after he has lost his current explosiveness.
Durant on the other hand, is only 24, and his basketball stock is skyrocketing like Halliburton during the Iraq and Afghanistan war. As he reaches the summit of his prime, Durant will be a better passer, defender, and rebounder than he already is, and will be terrorizing teams without mercy.
Aaaaand maybe, juuuuuust maybe, after their next contracts have expired, they could join forces. Imagine a grizzled Lebron, with a couple of flecks of gray in his luscious beard, facilitating a refined Durant-centric offense as the two of them smack down any uppity youngsters who attempt to join them on Mount Olympus.
Watch these two as much as you can, you’ll want to have a lot of stories to tell your grandchildren about the good ol’ days when James and Durant ruled the league.