Kevin Durant, LeBron James And Why You Should Love Them BothBY PARKER CASSELL DELTA TAU DELTA JUNIOR
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Kevin Durant, LeBron James And Why You Should Love Them BothBY PARKER CASSELL DELTA TAU DELTA JUNIOR


The favorites rivalry that shows no signs of stoppingHow rivalry has helped the NBA 

The NBA really struggled in the 1980s. Ratings were bad, attendance was low and America, generally, did not care about professional basketball the way it does today. The Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry saved professional basketball. The NBA, marketing geniuses that they are, built excitement out of the rivalry between Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics.

Magic Johnson was all about show-time—behind the back passes and dunks and Hollywood glamour. Larry Bird, at least as the NBA portrayed him, was just a country boy from French Lick, Ind. transported to hard-working Boston, with a pure shooting stroke and a no-nonsense competitive attitude. It was Hollywood versus hard work. West versus East. Glam versus elbow grease. Magic and Bird were marketed as polar opposites, battled several times for NBA titles and the NBA reaped the rewards from the outstanding rivalry they manufactured.

Much has changed in the NBA since 1987, the last time Magic and Bird met in the NBA finals. Michael Jordan has come and gone, and come and gone, and come and gone again. Franchises have expanded and relocated. New rivalries have formed. Emerging right now, before our lucky eyes, is the best NBA rivalry since the 1980s. The league’s newest and most important rivalry features a man who represents everything that has ever been right with humanity, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, versus the archangel of basketball evil, Miami’s LeBron James.

These two men are, undoubtedly, the two best basketball players in the world. They are also the two most polarizing basketball forces on the planet. Their on-floor demeanors are entirely different. Durant appears to be the kind of player who will chit-chat with your grandma on the sideline during a free throw. James appears to be the kind of guy who might flip off your grandma in traffic on the way to the arena.

Their playing styles are different. Durant scores early and often every game, usually with great touch and skill. James scores in lower numbers with brute force and is the kind of athlete you might see once every 50 years. Even as their personas grow more alike, they are still different. Durant, with his “KD is not nice” campaign seeks to rework his image as, in the very kindest of ways, a tough competitor. James, with his millions of commercials running 24 hours per day, featuring him hanging out with kids or playing on his phone like a goofball, seeks to reestablish himself as he once was—relatable Mr. Nice Guy, darling of the NBA. Durant wants to grow mean and James wants you to know he means well.

The issue with this rivalry, the one that separates these two players from becoming like Magic and Bird, is that they are the absolute worst thing that rivals can be—friends. They train together in the summer. They play on the same Olympic teams. They interact on social media. It is almost cringeworthy. James and Durant actually like and respect each other. How could Durant, the patron saint of the NBA, respect and even admire the most nefarious force in professional sports, the same man who mercilessly ripped the heart out of every member of his hometown on an hour-long television special without second-thought? How can we hate Lebron if Kevin does not even hate LeBron?! The answer, simply, is that we cannot. Or, at least, that we should not.

Appearances are not always accurate. Durant may be the nicest guy you ever meet, but it is likely that some of his nice-guy persona has been crystallized and exaggerated by the media. James did not help his image much by leaving Cleveland, but much of the evil thrust upon his character was attributed to him by the media to improve ratings.

To hate James, as many people do, is to hate basketball greatness. Due to the fact that Michael Jordan was in his prime while most of us were still five or six years old, and pushing all Kobe Bryant arguments aside, LeBron James will likely be the greatest NBA player we ever see. He is a tremendously talented athlete and basketball player. That, at least for right now, is a fact.

Durant has a chance to exceed James’ legacy, but not until he wins at least a few titles. Every time you depreciate James’ acts of basketball greatness by commenting on what was probably a falsely constructed negative quality of his character—or a real one, like his receding hairline—you also depreciate Durant’s basketball greatness by moving the conversation from the court to the personal sphere.

The two men will be forever paired. Coincidentally, by depreciating James’ greatness, Durant’s greatness lessens by extension. Stop burying the NBA’s greatest rivalry, and the greatness of the world’s most-likable superstar, under the weight of your own opinion.

As a fan, you have the opportunity to witness one of the greatest sports rivalries, ever. Two talents like these do not come along very often. Accept them for who they are. Love Durant and James the same way you love Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. Love Durant like you love Harry, as a force of pure goodness. Love James like you secretly love Voldemort, as a contrasting force of evil who brings out the greatness in your hero. At the very least, love the rivalry between these two outstanding talents and competitors and be grateful you were lucky enough to see it all unfold. 

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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