FELIX — It took a few decades into the existence of the National Basketball Association for the idea that basketball generations are defined by the stars within them to catch on.
It was here in the 1980s that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson radically altered the league and the way we watch basketball. Just think how differently we would have processed the fights between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell if they had taken place 20 years ago.
In the last 40 years, a lot more legends have entered and left the league. NBA legends like MJ, Kobe, Duncan, O’Neal, and O’Neal. The NBA is known for its magical storytelling, but it will be hard-pressed to produce another Bird and Magic—a competition between two players who had reached the pinnacle of their sport at the same time, complete with dozens of other juicy subplots that would take too long to list here.
HBO has enough material to produce its own version of the story, and it does so in an inventive way with “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” The quest for that unique something goes on. And that really isn’t a thing to take the wrong way. Because of this, Bird and Magic will last forever.
However, Kevin Durant and LeBron James are the best we’ve gotten since then in terms of two men reaching the pinnacle of basketball together in a way that inevitably forces them to match up and prove who is better.
And it hasn’t happened in five years; Friday’s game between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers will either bring it back or extend the wait. James is listed as questionable for a game the Lakers likely need a win in to avoid the play-in,
while Durant’s status for the second game of a back-to-back is unknown as of Thursday night despite his team having already locked in its postseason position. It would break a 12-game streak in which the two superstars were not present for their teams’ matchups if they both participated.
Hearing That It Had Been So Long Caught Durant off guard
We’ve been through a lot of injuries and bad luck, he said on Tuesday. Anything can happen, but we have to keep moving forward and we’re going to try to play on the court on Friday if we can.
As basketball fans, we’re at the point where we have to start worrying about how often we’ll get to see it again. James is 38 years old, and while I believe he will continue to play at an elite level until he proves otherwise (even if it goes into his 40s), he is a cyborg. Durant, who is 34 but is still in his prime, follows a similar trajectory.
Most NBA rivalries today don’t involve any actual animosity between the players involved. There’s a common misconception that it’s not a “rivalry” unless that element is added to the pot to make a tasty story. These are now mostly forgotten.
What will never go away, however, is the intense need that competitors have to prove they are the best, a need that is satisfied most when they go head-to-head with their rivals. Most confrontations are filled to the brim with mutual regard.
They Attended Each Other’s Championship Ceremonies, It Turns Out
In 2012, James and the Miami Heat defeated Durant and a young Oklahoma City Thunder team that surely had (Surely!) in its future. What are the risks?
Five years later, in 2017, Durant and arguably the greatest basketball team of all time, the Golden State Warriors, got another shot at James for the championship. Durant had spent the season playing within Golden State’s system without deferring to Steph Curry and company and without claiming, “Actually, I’m the superstar and this is my team now.” But when it was just him and James again, he gave off pure alpha energy.
In the 2017 NBA Finals, which consisted of five games, Durant shot 55.6% from the field and averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game.
Meanwhile, James averaged a pedestrian 33.6 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, one block, and 1.4 steals per game on 56.4% shooting. It was the best basketball played by two individuals at the professional level that we have ever witnessed. In addition to being a better player, Durant’s team was superior. The championship and MVP honors are well-deserved for him.
An Old Enemy Makes A Comeback
Some of the greatest rivalries in the history of basketball have taken place in the NBA and have shaped the sport for decades. Basketball legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Larry Bird have left an enduring impression on the game.
The NBA hasn’t seen a rivalry with the same level of intensity and competition between its teams since Bird and Magic’s time. And the only rivalry that has come close to that is that of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
The two superstars will play each other for the first time in five years when the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers meet in a basketball game. Although Durant’s participation in the game is in doubt, the absence of these two superstars from their teams’ matchups would be broken if they both played.
Injuries and bad luck have plagued the team, as Durant put it. Anything can happen, but we have to keep moving forward and we’re going to try to play on the court on Friday if we can.
According to The Independent, LeBron and Savannah first met in 2002 as students in Akron, Ohio, where Savannah attended Buchtel High School and LeBron attended St. Vincent-St. Mary as a junior.