Mar, 25, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) in action against Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant: Best individual NBA Finals matchup ever?

LeBron James and Kevin Durant will square off in the NBA Finals starting Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. EST on ABC.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat matchup is a dream come true for NBA fans as it pits arguably the two most talented teams against each other with the two most talented players.

LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant.

It’s the matchup we always wanted: the two best players in the NBA to lead their teams to the NBA Finals and square off.

One of the special things about this matchup is that LeBron and Durant play the same position. They will be guarding each other throughout the entire series. And each has advantages against the other.

LeBron is of course the ultimate athlete with his strength and power being his greatest advantage. Durant has traditionally struggled somewhat against more physical defenders with LeBron fitting that exact mold.

Durant is taller than LeBron, listed at 6-foot-9 but may be closer to 7-feet according to many NBA players. He can give LeBron trouble using his length. He can play off him on defense and entice LeBron into shooting jumpers.

LeBron is the better all-around player and was the MVP this year rightfully so but he’s not better than Durant at everything. Here are their numbers from the regular season and then the playoffs.

Reg. season MPG PPG APG RPG FG% FT% 3PT%
LeBron James 37.5 27.1 6.2 7.9 .531 .771 .362
Kevin Durant 38.6 28.0 3.5 8.0 .496 .860 .387
LeBron James 42.4 30.8 5.1 9.6 .508 .718 .275
Kevin Durant 41.6 27.8 4.2 7.9 .505 .870 .364

It’s not that common for the two best players in the NBA to meet in the NBA Finals. It’s also not common for the two best players to play the same position.It doesn’t get much better than that. But is it the best individual matchup in NBA Finals history? It’s closer than you think.

We always hear Bird-Magic as the greatest matchup ever but the truth is those two rarely guarded each other. Not taking anything away from those ‘80s Celtics-Lakers series because they were the best NBA Finals’ ever.

Even looking back in 1991 at Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson matching up. They didn’t quite play the same position or guard each other much either. Magic vs. MJ might get the edge in LeBron vs. Durant in how big the names were, LeBron vs. Durant will be better in a lot of other ways too.

The only matchup in NBA Finals history that really is better than what we are about to see is Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain.

It sounds a little silly already comparing LeBron-Durant to Russell-Wilt but it really could be the beginning of the next great NBA rivalry.

The Thunder aren’t going away for awhile. They look like a team that could be dominating the West for 5-6 more NBA Finals appearances.

The Heat and LeBron are the same way. If the Thunder and Heat manage to meet in the Finals three or four times over the next five years, LeBron-Durant has the potential to turn into the greatest rivalry of all-time.

The first chapter begins Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

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Tags: Bill Russell Dwyane Wade Game 1 Kevin Durant Larry Bird LeBron James Magic Johnson Miami Heat Michael Jordan NBA Finals NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook Wilt Chamberlain

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