For the past few seasons, fans and pundits have debated who the best player in the NBA is between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Both guys are superstars of the highest order, but player rankings and comparisons have become the trendy thing to do.
That’s why it was refreshing to hear what three-time champion and Hall of Famer Toni Kukoc had to say about the never-ending LeBron-Durant debate.
Toni Kukoc on LeBron James-Kevin Durant debate: “We’re talking greatness either way”
Kukoc, who played with arguably the best basketball player of all time in Michael Jordan, told Brandon Robinson of Bally Sports that Durant and LeBron dominate the game entirely differently. The former Bulls star claims Durant uses his pure scoring skills, while LeBron takes advantage of his strength and size. Kukoc, though, acknowledged that both players are great in their own right.
“On one side, you have this pure, lightest hand to me that ever existed in basketball. The guy can’t be stopped, and then on the other side, LeBron, who has a different view of the game,” Kukoc said. “He’s so physically dominant and so good. So, it’s up to the people’s likeness of basketball, but we’re talking greatness either way.”
The debate of who is better between LeBron and Durant grew louder in 2018 after the latter beat the former in the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season. However, context and looking at each player’s strengths and weaknesses are essential for this discussion.
Kevin Durant is a better pure scorer, but LeBron James is the superior all-around player
Durant is one of the best scorers and shooters in NBA history. Defenders have to guard the Brooklyn Nets star as soon as he crosses half-court since the two-time Finals MVP has unlimited range and can score from anywhere and over anyone. Durant also has guard-like handles that allow him to create space and get by elite defenders, helping him earn a career scoring average of 27.02, which is fifth all-time, and win four scoring titles.
Meanwhile, LeBron is undoubtedly the better all-around player. Not only is he sixth in NBA history in points per game (27.0) and the third-leading scorer of all time, but the King is also eighth in league history in assists, making him the only player ever to rank top-10 all-time in points and assists. LeBron is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court. He’s fifth in NBA history in that category with 99. Durant only has 12.
Former President Theodore Roosevelt famously said that comparison is the thief of joy. Basketball fans should appreciate the greatness of LeBron and Durant instead of constantly comparing them. After all, we may never see two players like them ever again.
Bron and KD are once-in-a-generation players
LeBron and Durant will go down as once-in-a-generation players. The latter is a seven-foot scoring machine with zero flaws on the offensive end, while the former is arguably the greatest all-around player of all time and quite possibly the second-best player ever behind Jordan.
Despite being incredible players, though, both LeBron and Durant are polarizing and aren’t loved by everyone. Some fans haven’t forgiven LeBron for The Decision when he announced on live TV he was signing with the Miami Heat in 2010. He’s also made fun of a lot for having a losing record (4-6) in the Finals despite being the only player in NBA history to win three Finals MVPs with three different teams.
Meanwhile, Durant is constantly vilified for joining the 73-9 Golden State Warriors after blowing a 3-1 lead to them in the 2016 Western Conference Finals as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Several basketball fans on social media say that Durant’s two rings with the Warriors don’t count since he was part of a superteam.
LeBron and Durant may not be as popular and widely celebrated as Jordan, but they are unquestionably two of the greatest players in NBA history.