- Michael Wallace, ESPN Staff Writer
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Asked during Friday’s All-Star media day session to gauge on a scale of one to 10 how tired he is of having to face comparisons to James, the Oklahoma City star ventured well off the charts.
“Um, about a 25,” Durant fired back. “It’s every day, I mean. You should really focus on how good LeBron James is. I think people should appreciate that more than always comparing guys. In our world, you want to compare everything. You judge everything. That’s just how we are.”
Durant was asked at least 10 questions about either LeBron or the Miami Heat during his 30-minute session with reporters in advance of Sunday’s All-Star Game. At one point before responding to a question, Durant asked the inquiring reporter if he was from Miami.
Durant has emerged as the clear frontrunner to potentially unseat James as the league’s Most Valuable Player this season. Durant has led the Thunder to the league’s best record entering the break at 43-12, and is in the midst of the most prolific all-around season of his career.
Averaging career highs in points (31.5) assists (5.5), steals (1.5), shooting percentage (51) and both field goals attempted and made, Durant has been on one of the most remarkable runs in recent years. Seemingly every step of the way, he’s either been directly asked about James or sees himself compared to the four-time league MVP and two-time NBA champion.
Even James has spent much of the season publicly marveling at Durant’s exploits on the court, which included leading the Thunder past the Heat in Miami during the first of their two regular-season showdowns. Durant is equally complimentary of James’ exploits this season. While Durant has played his best stretch in the past six weeks since Russell Westbrook has been sidelined with a knee injury, James has also delivered some of his biggest performances in games Dwyane Wade has missed.
James has scored at least 30 points in 11 games since Jan. 1 and is averaging 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists this season while shooting a career-high 57.1 percent from the field. Although both James and Durant traded highlight performances while leading their respective teams to consecutive wins on the road leading into the break, Durant insists it’s OK to appreciate them individually.
“Let’s just sit back and judge basketball as we play it; not just LeBron and myself, but other guys in the league, too,” Durant said. “Just enjoy it, because it’s here today and gone tomorrow. A lot of people take it for granted.”
Durant likely won’t be able to avoid the LeBron subject anytime soon. He has finished second in MVP voting to James on three occasions and also lost to James and the Heat in five games in the 2012 Finals. James and Durant are likely to be among the players in the mix for MVP of Sunday’s All-Star game. And when regular-season play resumes next week, one of the first marquee matchups on the schedule is Thursday’s nationally broadcasted meeting between the Heat and Thunder in Oklahoma City.
James said Friday he has no problems addressing questions about Durant, his workout partner in the offseason. It was mentioned to James that Durant is having his best season coming off a summer during which the two weren’t able to spend time together working on their respective games.
“It just happened that way -- what a coincidence,” James said. “When we both worked out a few times, we came into the season better prepared, better trained, better mentally. I don’t mind [Durant questions] at all. I’m a truthful guy. I don’t sugarcoat nothing.”