LeBron vs. Durant: MVP race for the ages
March, 4, 2014
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesWe are all witnesses: LeBron James and Kevin Durant are delivering one of the best MVP battles ever.With 43 days to go in the NBA’s regular season -- and thus 44 days until ballots are due -- this MVP race you can legitimately describe as both exquisite and excruciating is only getting tighter.
It’s agonizingly seesaw and deliciously ideal all at once.
It’s the consensus top two players in the game, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, punching in with the season’s top two individual performances and trading uppercuts in the center of the ring.
Which is the perfect storm.
Among the reasons that the MVP race inspires such passionate debate, especially in the NBA, is the annual struggle between those among us who think the award should go to the guy who has the best overall season and those who believe LeBron -- like Michael Jordan before him -- should win it every season until he’s no longer universally regarded as the game’s greatest singular force.
But the beauty of this race is that LeBron's push is coming from the player closest to his zip code in terms of talent and impact. Which isn't always the case.
The previous top two MVP races witnessed this century -- Steve Nash narrowly over Shaquille O'Neal in 2005 and Tim Duncan edging Jason Kidd in 2002 -- featured point guards in Nash and Kidd who emerged as MVP contenders because they ranked, at the time, at the top of the Best Teammate In The Game pile. Nash and Kidd changed cultures and transformed franchises with their peerless leadership, but neither quite lorded over the league like LeBron and His Airness have.
This is different. This is LeBron making you think he might shoot 60 percent from the floor for an entire season after a near-flawless November ... followed by Durant uncorking an otherworldly stretch of basketball from Christmas Day through Valentine's after Russell Westbrook went down ... followed by LeBron emerging from an All-Star Weekend that oozed with Durant drool by somehow finding another gear to chase down this better-than-ever KD.
It's LeBron and his nearest rival, both of whom sport the league's only PER readings in the 30s, playing so damn well that we can scarcely get a word in about Kevin Love or Blake Griffin or Steph Curry. We touched on some of this in last week's Trimester Reports, but Masked LeBron's 61-point eruption Monday night against Charlotte makes you want to say it again:
Buckle up, y'all. If this MVP stuff matters to you, this is as good as it gets.