Tag Archives: Kevin Durant

All Eyes On Westbrook

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Ever since the day he was drafted Russell Westbrook has always challenged Kevin Durant’s status in hierarchy. Whether it’s taking Durant’s rebound, taking Durant’s shot or calling Durant out for his play Westbrook has always challenged him. No one can guard Durant like Westbrook can. And no one can stop Westbrook like Durant can. To most people, Westbrook seems to be somewhat of a hindrance to Kevin Durant. In my eyes I view it as the opposite.

Kevin Durant is one of a kind. He’s a seven footer with a sweet jumper and a mean crossover. He’s savvy, quick, long and hard-working. He can score from 30 feet out, in the post, off the dribble and off of screens. Defensively he can affect people because of his length and he can rebound at a fairly decent level. In crunch time there aren’t too many if any, guys you’d rather want taking the shot. He’s an incredible gifted young player who’s ceiling is high. I get it. But the Thunder don’t go as he goes. He may be the captain, but he’s damn sure not the driver.

For as long as I can remember Durant’s impact has always been third.

Back when Harden was on the roster his impact on the game greater than that of KD’s. He would come in off of the bench and provide a lift. Harden would hit momentous shots, lockup well make things tough on opposing guards who could score, (see Kobe in 2012) as well as distribute the ball. He was arguably the best playmaker on the team dare I say the most important, because when he didn’t show up (Finals against the Heat) they struggled. And when he did ( Spurs series) they dominated.

Today Ibaka has a more prominent effect on the game than Durant does. Without Ibaka OKC struggles when it comes to defending the paint and rebounding. With Ibaka everyone is better and he shuts down who ever is presumed to be a threat on the block. This past year in the Playoffs OKC struggled when Ibaka was out. His absence left a void offensively and defensively. They struggled to find the appropriate space offensively and defensively they couldn’t stop anyone.

But enough of Ibaka and Harden this is about Westbrook.

With Harden on the squad Westbrook’s impact was still greater than Durant’s. He brought the edge and physicality the team needed. As well as the drive and hunger.

Westbrook would and still will provide a spark, a boost if you will that has a greater impact than Durant. For example when Durant scores 30 it’s more of a suprise because it goes unnoticed or should I say wasn’t necessarily felt. Whenever Westbrook scores alot you tend to think it was more because he does it in a more demoralizing way. Owning who ever tries to guard him.

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Durant’s numbers may appear large on the stat sheet but within the game they aren’t as impactful as many would believe. I view him as a great quiet scorer. Westbrook’s scoring prowess/wrath in retrospect is more devastating than that of Durant’s. Westbrook’s presence is felt. Durant’s can go unnoticed.

Unless Durant is scorching hot and lighting it up I don’t view him as the best player on the team. I find myself looking and watching for Westbrook more than anyone else. He never takes a play off while you’ll often see Durant flail his arms and make faces whenever things don’t go his way. He’ll also stop trying all together when he can’t get open.

On the defensive side of the ball Westbrook makes it hard on other guards. He’s a big physical guard that has alot of athleticism with arms that are pretty lengthy to go along with the strength he has. He can lockup guys when need be and he excels in playing the passing lanes.

Westbrook is easily OKC’s best two way player.

But now he has clearly become their most important player.

With Kevin Durant sidelined with a foot injury until December (I say longer because those injuries always come with setbacks…Yao..Brook Lopez..etc) he now has a chance to show that he can lead a team on his own. He won’t have to be in Durant’s shadow early. And if he performs like I expect him to he won’t have to ever again.
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We’ve seen Westbrook take over games with his defense. We’ve seen him hit game clinching buckets. We’ve seen his play making ability. We’ve seen his edge, heart, desire, drive and hunger. We know he’s a stud. But now it’s time for him to elevate his game even higher.

I see a Kobe Bryant like ceiling for Westbrook. If he was the main guy he would shine and people would appreciate his greatness alot more.

He’s a Top 5 guy in this league while playing alongside Durant. And after this season I suspect him to be top two or three.

Kevin Durant’s injury hurts no doubt, but it’ll prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Westbrook’s chance to lead has finally come and he must now seize the moment. It’s his time now and all eyes are on him.

Westbrook for MVP is highly likely.
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The Oklahoma City Thunder Were Favored Over Memphis Why? – Omavi Darden

Once Russell Westbrook was lost due to injury, many people still claimed that the Thunder could make it to the NBA Finals without him. I immediately disagreed with that claim.

For starters, the Thunder had a ferocious battle tested Grizzlies team to get by first. I already knew from the jump, that the Grizzlies would give the Thunder serious problems in the interior. The lethal combination of Zach and Marc scoring in the paint area and fighting for rebounds would obviously wear this undermanned Thunder team down over a 7 game series.

Their defensive schemes were just as good. The Grizzlies do a good job of forcing opposing teams top offensive players into spots on the court where there is help defense (greatly reducing the % of attempted shots and good for disrupting an efficient offense).

Next people seem to forget how good Mike Conley is. He is a top 10 point guard in my opinion. He is a good floor general, can stretch the floor with his shooting touch, and isn’t afraid to take big shots down the stretch of tight games. He is so agile and fast, he gives defenders fits trying to stay in front of him and guard him.

People also forgot that Memphis had a Tony Allen and a Tayshaun Prince. These two players are superb one on one defenders, and great team defenders as well. Tony is a quicker more physical defender who can get up in you, and pressure you into tough spots on the court. Prince is a tall/longer/finesse defender who uses his body to maneuver himself into advantageous positions on the court over offensive players (to the point where he can literally dictate the shot that the offensive player takes), and still contests it with his outstretched arms, resulting in a lower % shot. That’s exactly what Memphis wants you to do.

Marc is also the leader of this tantalizing defense. He doesn’t necessarily block a lot of shots or make the most exciting defensive plays, but its his paint presence alone that allows this Memphis team to function so well defensively. His help defense and rotations on defense are crisp as can be. He alters a lot of shots attempted in the paint area, causing them to miss severely. This Memphis team really believes in one another, and the trust factor is the reason they operate so well as a unit. Players know where teammates want the ball on offense, and also know where the help side defense is going to be at.

Memphis doesn’t necessarily have a designated star player on their team that they rely on to get them buckets at the end of close games. However, they don’t need one because they are such a good team. At the end of the day I understand Kevin Durant is a star in this league, and he can drop 40 on any given night. But at the end of the day, one man can not expect to take on a whole team and be victorious. Memphis ended up winning this series 4-1 I’m not too surprised.

Omavi Darden

The Evolution Of A Superstar

Some of us saw this coming, while others didn’t; some knew he would be a star, while others didn’t; some claimed he was an injury proned player wouldn’t be anything more than an above average Point Guard, while others still believed.

Over the course of this season Stephen Curry has proven time in and time out that he’s the real deal. He led the Warriors to a 47-35 record while averaging 23ppg and 7ast. He broke Ray Allen’s single season record in 3pt field goals made and is currently leading his Warriors team to a first round upset over the Denver Nuggets.

In the Playoffs Elite players step their game up; and thats exactly what Stephen Curry did. He went from averaging 23ppg and 7ast in the season to averaging 27ppg and 10ast. He averages more assists than any other player in the Playoffs and has the fourth highest Points Per Game average behind Anthony, Durant and Harden.

With the lights shining bright, and people watch closely Stephen Curry is delivering; like a Superstar
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Time To Step Up Kevin Durant

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The other day Kevin Durant said, “I’m Tired of being second.” He talked about being second in high-school, college, the MVP race, the Scoring Title and how he’s second to LeBron. The only thing he didn’t mention is how he’s second on the OKC Thunder. I’m sure that statement sounds absurd but it’s true.
       Kevin Durant is easily OKC’s best player. But at times Durant doesn’t get the shots number one guys take. For example, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony both get the shots they need to close out games and etc; Kevin Durant on the other hand doesn’t get the ball as much because Russell Westbrook takes it upon himself to get buckets and close out games. Thus depriving Kevin Durant from being a 35ppg guy.
        Sure, its good that Kevin Durant has a guy that can take pressure off of him, but at the end of the day Durant needs to get the ball more so he can hush his critics and show us how great he is. With that being said, Kevin Durant now has his chance.
     While Westbrook is out, due to a torn meniscus, Kevin Durant will have his chance to show us why he’s ready to be #1. He’ll have a chance to rebound, score and distribute more showing us a more complete game. The lights are on and the camera is rolling; now its Durant’s time to show us what he’s all about.

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Defying Father Time

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For the last couple of years Kobe and his play has put fans and analysts in a bad mind frame. Before this season started there was talk of Kobe Bryant showing his age and slowly becoming a second tier player.
         The talk first started two seasons ago after Kobe and his Lakers got swept by the Dallas Mavericks. In that series against Dallas, Kobe wasn’t able to carry his team to victories. In the first two games of that series Kobe got out played by Dirk in crunch time. Kobe was also getting beat by J.J Barea and Jason Terry whenever he guarded them. And last but not least, Kobe couldn’t get the looks he wanted because of the tough defense being played by Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and Deshawn Stevenson. After the series concluded we found out Kobe was playing on one knee and messed up his ankle. So not only was he showing his age, his body was deteriorating.
        During that offseason Kobe went to Germany and had knee surgery on his ailing knee. After the surgery there was talk of Kobe showing some spark and playing younger. After hearing that fans of Kobe ,and others, became excited about the upcoming season. But during the pre-season Kobe tore a ligament in his wrist that happened to be on his shooting hand. Despite the injury Kobe played and turned some heads. During that season Kobe averaged: 28pts 5reb 5ast 30% 3pt 43% FGP 84% FT in 39mpg. Compared to the 25pts 5reb 5ast 32% 3PT 45% FGP 83% FT in 34mpg Yes his scoring went up but his efficiency went down; which meant he wasn’t getting easy looks. So instead of raving about the scoring he was doing people knocked him for being slower and inefficient.
         During the Playoffs last season Kobe’s age got to him. In the series against OKC Kobe got out played by Durant, James Harden and Westbrook. During the 4th Quarters Kobe couldn’t close like he used to; Kobe couldn’t defend; Kobe couldn’t get the looks he wanted; Kobe couldn’t make the plays that needed to be made. As a result Kobe and the Lakers went home in five games. After that series there were talks of Kobe running out of gas. Kobe showing his age. Kobe’s body is done. Kobe would be lucky to average 20+ points next season. And other ignorant claims. During the Olympics Kobe looked out of place at times when playing with Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron, Melo, Igudola and others. He couldn’t run the floor like they were doing. He couldn’t score like they could. He couldn’t defend like them. And after hearing and witnessing those type of things there was only one thing that could be said: Father Time Has Finally Caught Up With Him. People stuck with that until the start of the season.
       Once the season started we saw a younger, quicker, stronger, faster, efficient Kobe Bryant. Despite him being hampered by injuries this season ( Hip, Foot, Ankle, Ankle, Hand, Knee, Flu etc,) he averages 27ppg 6reb 6ast 33% 3pt 46% FGP 83% FT in 38mpg. Compared to the past two seasons all of his numbers are up and he’s playing better defensively. 
         After 16 (17 if you count now,) seasons in the NBA players usually become shells of themselves. Hell after 13+ season players’ productions drop off because of their ages and the wear and tear their bodies have consumed thru the duration of their career. But not Kobe Bean Bryant.
At age 34 with 16 1/2 seasons under his belt, numerous injuries and plenty of excuses to live off on, Kobe continues to defy the odds and fight Father Time. Instead of getting worse he’s getting better. Instead of aging he’s getting younger. Instead of giving up he keeps fighting. In cases of him losing to Father Time he keeps rewriting.

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D.Rose vs Westbrook

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One of the best point guard debates in recent years has been Derrick Rose vs Russell Westbrook; two top notch point guards that are widely considered as the most athletic players to ever play the position. Both players can jump out the gym, move quickly and are good scorers.
Although they have similarities in some aspects, they’re games are a bit different. With his speed and quickness Rose likes to finish around the basket avoiding contact. Whenever he gets challenged at the rim he alters his shot to avoid contact. Every now and again he’ll finish strong at the rim over a defender, but usually chooses not to do that. Over the years he’s developed a consistent 3pt shot along with a shaky mid-range shot. When his shot is falling he’s nearly unstoppable, but his stroke isn’t as consistent as it should be, so him being unguardable hardly ever happens. On the defensive side of the ball he’s an average defender. Thru the years he’s gotten better, but still has a ways to go before being considered an elite or superb defender.
Westbrook, on the other hand, uses his speed, strength and quickness to finish strong at rim and overwhelm his opponents. When compared to Rose, Westbrook is a bit more physical. When he attacks he looks for contact, most of the time, while other times he’ll avoid it. Westbrook’s mid-range game is elite; while his 3pt game is slightly above average. Offensively Westbrook is virtually unguardable. If you play him for the drive he’ll knock down the jumper, play him for the shot and he’ll blow right by you. Defenders have nightmares when matched up with him. Defensively Westbrook is hard nosed and feisty like his coach, Scott Brook, was. Very seldom will you see a guy beat Westbrook and even still he’ll be right there with them.
When comparing the two of them you have to pay attention to all of the details and not just offense and defense. Sure Westbrook is a better offensive player and defensive player, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the better all around player. When comparing these two you have to look at the intangibles. D.Rose is a more willing passer than Westbrook while Westbrook is a more aggressive player. Westbrook has a sturdier body while D.Rose is frail. Rose is a leader by nature while Westbrook isn’t. After the intangibles you have to compare the skills and smarts of each player.
When it comes to handling the ball Westbrook is superior. Sure, D.Rose is quick and fast with the ball and no one can stay infront of him, but his ball control is real sloppy. During Thunder games Westbrook will force bad shots and make horrible decisions with the ball, for example, not passing it to Kevin Durant in the clutch. D.Rose on the other hand can go a little too out of his way to get other players going instead of taking over the mantle himself. All in all D.Rose is a smarter basketball player than Russell Westbrook hands down.
Stat wise they look a bit similar. For D.Rose’s career he averages 21ppg 7ast 4reb 1stl 3to 18shots a game while shooting 46.4% from the field and 31% from deep.
For Westbrook’s career he averages 20ppg 7ast 5reb 2stl 4to 16shots a game while shooting 43% from the field and 31% from deep.
Both stat lines are identical and can very well be interchangeable. If you were to switch D.Rose and Westbrook both the Bulls and Thunder will improve. The Thunder will now have a guy who can score, play smart and have everything he’s ever wanted, that specific thing being help! Kevin Durant and D.Rose would be a deadly duo that wouldn’t have to worry about shots and being able to co-exist. In the 4th quarter Rose will be able to feed Durant appropriately as well as get the shots he needs in order to be successful. Add in the fact that his body is frail, Durant will be able to take some of the heap of him. D.Rose will also have the benefit of playing for a coach who was once a defensive stopper at point guard. With D.Rose, the leader, and Kevin Durant at the helm the Thunder will stretch to new heights.
Westbrook on the other hand will finally have a team to call his own. He’ll be able to showcase his talent in ways he wouldn’t have been able to do with the Thunder. Instead of having to share the rock with Durant, Westbrook will be able to close games the way he wants to. With coach Tom Thibodeau by his side Westbrook will be able to develop into more of a leader and mature as a player. And on top of all that the Chicago Bulls will finally have a star that can stay in the lineup, as opposed to having Rose who is all ways hurt. By having a star that is durable and great offensively the Bulls will become an even bigger threat.
At the end of the day I came to the assumption that they’re both equal and interchangeable, which doesn’t make one better than the other. But if you want a definite answer i’ll leave you with these wise words: The best ability, is availability.

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Kevin Durant vs Carmelo Anthony

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Melo or Durant? Durant or Melo? Which one is the better scorer? Who’s the better defender? After LeBron who comes next? Those are questions Melo and Durant leave us with night in and night out. It’s a never ending saga; Melo might drop 35 one night and Durant will come back and drop 35 another night; Melo hits a game winner one game and Durant does it the next game; Melo uses his overwhelming power to bully defenders while Durant uses his nice, silky smooth game to manipulate defenders at will. Each time those things happen our minds promptly change our stance on which player is better.
  At 6’8 230lbs Carmelo Anthony’s game is based on speed, power, quickness, making contact and physicality. When ever he drives he bumps bodies with his defender in order to get them off balance so he can go right by them without them catching up, or so he can go up for a shot without them being able to contest it well. By forcing contact, Melo wears down his defenders and causes them to either foul or back away due to fatigue.  Kevin Durant’s game, on the other hand is somewhat opposite to Melo’s.
  Durant’s game isn’t predicted on speed, power and physicality; his game is more so finesse than anything else. Instead of looking for contact, like Melo does, Durant tries to avoid it. Standing anywhere between 6’9-7’0, Durant bases his game off of deception, quickness and length. When the ball is in his hands he uses quick deceptive dribble moves to either go by or freeze his defender. If the move or moves he uses fail, he simply steps back and uses his astonishing length to get off any shot he wants.
   This season each player has accounted for 30+ points in over 15 games. (Melo 19 and Durant 23.) Each player has had a couple of 40 point games as well. (Melo 5 and Durant 6.) And only one of the two has hit the 50pt mark this season, that person being Durant.  Just by looking at that Durant holds a slight edge over Melo in the scoring department. When looking at the numbers Durant gains a bigger lead.
  As of now Kevin Durant averages 28.9 ppg 7.5reb 4.5ast 1.2blks 1.6stl 3.3to and 2 fouls per game. In the efficiency category Durant makes 9.3 shots a game on 18 attempts, shooting 51.6%; attempts 4.4 3pts a game, making 1.9 and shoots 42.6% from deep; he also shoots 90% from the free throw line, averaging 8.5 makes on 9.3 attempts.
   Carmelo Anthony on the other hand averages 28.4 ppg 2.7ast 6.5reb 0.5blks 0.8stl 2.7to and 3 fouls a game in 38 minutes. He shoots 44.5% from the field while averaging 9.9 makes on 22.2 attempts; shoots 39.3% from deep on 2.7 makes out of 6.8 attempts; and shoots 82% from the free throw line averaging 6 makes on 7 attempts.
  As you can see above Durant is clearly a better player and scorer than Melo. Defensively they’re both relatively weak, but because of Durant’s length and ability to not foul he gains the upper hand. When you look at both players offensively you can tell Durant is by far the better player.
  Durant is a better playmaker and makes smarter decisions with the basketball. At times during Knick games Melo will shoot shots that make you question his motives; that problem doesn’t persist in Durant.
  Offensively it’s not even close. Not only is Durant in the 50s, 40s, 90s club he averages more points on less attempts. In New York Carmelo is the go to guy and gets the ball whenever he wants it. Durant plays on a team where the PG often forgets who needs the ball and that takes away from Durant’s game. Westbrook averages 18.7 shot attempts a game compared to Durant’s 18. No one on Melo’s team, outside of him average over 15 shot attempts. Give Durant that type of environment and he’d average 30+.
To Melo’s credit he scores in more ways than Durant does. Melo will mix it up on you by doing an array of things from posting up to shooting jumpers, while Durant sticks to jumpers. The scoring in different ways is cute and all, but would you prefer the guy who mastered one thing or the guy who learned everything but didn’t master it? I’ll like my chances with the guy who mastered one as opposed to the guy who didn’t.
  At the end of the season Kevin Durant will go home with his fourth straight Scoring Title, while Carmelo Anthony will be left award less for a fourth straight year.

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The Rivalry That Never Was. Kobe vs LeBron

       

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Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, two of the three most talked about players in NBA History, with Michael Jordan being the other, continue to dazzle our eyes with great inseason matchups that will never translate into a much anticipated NBA Finals series.

Once LeBron ascended into a top tier player fans of the game dreamed of an NBA series that involved both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. LeBron, like Kobe, was suppose to be the second coming of Jordan. Both Kobe and LeBron acknowledged Michael Jordan as their idol and a player they wanted to be like. LeBron adopted Jordan’s number while Kobe adopted Michael’s game and body language. Once Kobe and Shaq broke up people talked about four things, Kobe, Shaq, Duncan and LeBron. LeBron was asserting himself as an elite NBA player. He led his Cavaliers to the Playoffs and had memorable series against the Wizards and Pistons early. During that tenure LeBron James was anointed the nickname King James.

On the other side of the U.S. Kobe Bryant led his teams to the Playoffs and had memorable series against the Phoenix Suns. Each player had little to no help en route to leading their teams to the playoffs. After the 2006-2007 season (which was the year LeBron lost to the Spurs in the Finals), the Kobe LeBron Finals matchup seemed more realistic.

The following year Boston got Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, L.A got Pau Gasol, Atlanta got Mike Bibby, Dallas got Jason Kidd and Phoenix got Shaq. Not only did those trades change the NBA landscape they made the Kobe and LeBron matchup a little bit more realistic. With J-Kidd and Shaq heading out West that paved the way for LeBron and his Cavs to move up into the upperechelon of the Eastern Conference. With the Lakers acquiring Pau Gasol they became the team to beat out West.

During the Playoffs that year LeBron and his Cavs took Boston to seven games and lost while Kobe and his new sidekick, Gasol, went all the way to the NBA Finals in a matchup with Boston. Eventually the Lakers lost and had a dreadful offseason.

Before the start of the 08-09 season LeBron’s team brought in Mo Williams to help propel them to another level. To help solidify their roster even more Cleveland pulled off a trade to bring in Ben Wallace and Delonte West. After bringing those guys in talks of a Kobe vs LeBron Finals matchup intensified. After having signed both LeBron and Kobe to lucrative deals Nike started making commercials about the two meeting in the Finals. Once Playoff time came around all eyes were on LeBron and Kobe. Each player led their team to the Conference Finals but only one advanced to the NBA Finals.

LeBron and Co. faced an Orlando Magic team led by Dwight Howard. In six hard fought games the Magic outlasted the Cavaliers and sent LeBron home in the process. Kobe on the other hand, led his team past a Nuggets team that featured Carmelo Anthony. After six tough games against Denver Kobe went on to the Finals where he beat the Magic and earned his fourth ring.

Weeks after the Lakers celebrated their Championship Parade, the Cavaliers did a trade with the Phoenix Suns to bring in Shaq. Days later the Lakers sign Ron Artest. Players, fans,coaches and analysts got the sense that a Kobe and LeBron series had become inevitable. Both teams started the season off strong. Even with the great start, Cleveland felt like they needed to give LeBron more help. At the trade deadline Cleveland did a trade that brought in Antwan Jamison. GMs and Experts said that move made Cleveland the best team in the league. Weeks later the Nike commercials came back campaigning for a LeBron and Kobe showdown. People around the world got hyped up and excited until the Playoffs came around. In the 2nd round of the Playoffs the Cavaliers lost to the Boston Celtics, who go on to lose to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

While Kobe is having fun with his 5th ring, LeBron bolts Cleveland and signs with the Miami Heat to play alongside Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Now that LeBron had Wade and Bosh nothing was suppose to keep him playing in the Finals against Kobe Bryant. Once again people anticipated a Kobe and LeBron Finals matchup, until the Dallas Mavericks shocked the world. On four magical wins the Mavericks swept the defending NBA Champions in round two of the Western Conference Playoffs.

Instead of a Kobe and LeBron showdown fans got a Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade rematch. The end result being LeBron goes home ringless and Kobeless yet again. Last year LeBron led his team to victory in the Finals against the arguably the best scorer the game has ever seen in Kevin Durant, and the OKC Thunder, who happened to beat Kobe and the Lakers two rounds earlier.

During the offseason the Heat picked up Ray Allen and the Lakers traded for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to make one last push to the NBA Finals while Kobe is still in play. Fast-Forward about six months and we’ll be where we are today. We have the Miami Heat as the top dog in the league while the Lakers are like a lost puppy finding their way, while struggling to keep pace with the nine teams ahead of them in the Playoff Race. LeBron and Kobe have been in each of the past six NBA Finals without matching up against each other. Six straight years without one heated series between the two. We may have had some scoring battles between the two from 05-06 to 07-08  (http://www.nbauniverse.com/awards/nba_scoring_leader_year.htm),  and some nice two games matchups during the course of regular seasons between the two but thats not a true rivalry. Rivalries are made thru Playoff Series. Kobe and LeBron haven’t been in one against each other and don’t play each other enough during the season to even start one.

So stop with all the Kobe and LeBron rivalry stuff. Kobe has no true rival and LeBron doesn’t either. Kobe’s career is on the downside while LeBron’s is up North. It’s time to face the fact: Their paths will never cross.

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