Kevin Durant and LeBron James have battled on the court for years. The two have faced off in the NBA Finals three times, with Durant leading the series 2-1, and James has gone out of his way to publicly praise the Brooklyn Nets star, calling him "one of the greatest players I've ever played against," during the 2018 NBA Finals.
But Durant didn't exactly reciprocate that praise in a recent video captured at Cool Kicks LA. When a fan there mentioned that he considers James the greatest player in NBA history, Durant responded by saying "that's crazy," before revealing that his GOAT pick is Michael Jordan.
Durant's opinion, in itself, is consistent. During May's airing of The Last Dance, Durant said that Jordan would be the best player in the NBA today. It should be noted, though, that Durant's opinion of LeBron may not be entirely objective. In 2013, he told Sports Illustrated for a cover story that he was "tired of being second." First, obviously, was James. Multiple core members of the Warriors have discussed the disappointment Durant seemingly felt when LeBron was widely considered the NBA's best player even after Golden State beat Cleveland in the NBA Finals. Draymond Green said as much explicitly.
"In my opinion, he got the best of 'Bron [in the 2017 Finals], like Kevin was f---in rocking," Green said. "After that, that was kind of that moment of like, damn Kevin should be the best player in the NBA now because of what he just did to LeBron. And it's like, you turn on the TV the next day, and the f---in headline is, 'LeBron James still best player in the world?' You've got Stephen A. [Smith], you've got all these people debating it, and everybody's still saying LeBron James is the best player in the world. That's when I kind of felt like it took a turn. And then we came back for the 2017-18 season, and Kevin just wasn't as happy."
Steve Kerr echoed the sentiment when Bill Simmons proposed it on an episode of his B.S. Podcast.
"We had a really good thing and then you could just feel it start to slip. And I don't know if it was what you mentioned -- Kevin felt like he was now the King of the NBA, but nobody was recognizing him for that. He dominated LeBron in those Finals."
Personal history aside, the majority of fans tend to agree with Durant. When CBS Sports ranked the top 15 players of all-time, Jordan landed on top. Durant, stylistically, is also far closer to Jordan stylistically than he is to James. Durant, like Jordan, is a historically dominant isolation scorer. James is renowned for his all-around game. To many, the choice between James and Jordan is a decision between those two divergent skill-sets.
But to suggest that choosing James is "crazy" is a bit over the top from Durant. While Jordan still wins most votes, a sizable percentage of fans, players and analysts already take LeBron, and unlike His Airness, James still has time to add to his resume. Even if the gap did remain "crazy," labeling it so would be premature. No matter his thinking, Durant is wrong on this one. Picking Jordan over LeBron is a perfectly defensible, and in fact mainstream, opinion. But no, it is not "crazy" to pick LeBron. Plenty of smart people do.