We are always on watch for the next great rivalry in the NBA. It has undoubtedly arrived in the form of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Durant and LeBron met in the NBA Finals last year kicking off what has no choice but to be one of the great rivalries in NBA history.
Who do we compare them to though?
It’s not really Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan vs. anyone. But it’s kind of starting to look like Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson with Durant playing the role of Bird and LeBron as Magic.
Of course, it is not exactly the same as Bird vs. Magic. LeBron and Durant didn’t come into the league at the same time. LeBron is ahead of Durant so far developing into a legend. LeBron and Durant actually play the same position too so we get to see them matched up against each other head-to-head more often.
LeBron has always drawn comparisons to Magic. For his size, he has become one of the most transcendent passers this game has ever seen much like Magic. He is a physical force for his position and loves making his teammates around him better.
Durant hasn’t always been compared to Bird but he’s starting to a little bit lately. Durant is definitely the Bird in this matchup because he has the pure shot. He’s a killer with his jump shot too. He wants the ball at the end of games with the intentions of shooting one in your eye. Durant can’t pass or rebound like Bird but he is improving in both of those areas.
Bird did something that was pretty much unprecedented at the time in the late 80’s shooting over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free throw line. This is something Durant is looking to replicate this season and he is aware of the rareness and importance of such a feat.
LeBron has always had the edge over Durant in terms of efficiency. His PER has been at an all-time mark the past few seasons, easily better than Durant’s. But if Durant can become a 50-40-90 guy playing the style he does, it will be a kind of advantage LeBron can’t match, something that will take this rivalry to new heights.
Bird and Magic met in the NBA Finals three times in the 1980’s and either the Celtics or Lakers made it to the Finals every season that decade. It feels like Durant and LeBron are destined for at least three meetings in the NBA Finals over the next decade. It will be harder to dominate the league like the Celtics and Lakers did back then but they can probably come pretty close.
Bird ended up winning three championships while Magic won five. Bird took home three MVP’s and Magic also won three.
Most people will say Magic was the better player, some even say he is close to Michael Jordan all-time. At the end of the day, LeBron will probably be talked about in the same light as Magic. He is close to MJ but not quite.
But with the game on the line and needing someone to take the last shot, you would pick Bird over Magic 100 times out of 100. The same is true for Durant vs. LeBron. There’s nothing prettier in the NBA right now then seeing Durant flick his wrists from distance and that’s because it looks so true every time the ball comes off his fingers.
The Bird vs. Magic debate still goes on even to this day. They changed the NBA, saved it even. You can pick either one and never be wrong.
Durant vs. LeBron has a chance to be that too. They’re not saving the league but their impact is just as important taking it in a new direction.
Right now, LeBron is the right choice, but Durant is closing in on him. And when he catches him, the next great rivalry in the NBA will be in full force.