Kevin Durant and LeBron James are buds. They hang out and work out together in the summer. They spent time together as part of Team USA. They are friends.
That is hard to swallow for people who long for a 1960s mentality where the players on opposing teams didn’t really know each other. They want to think the players buy into rivalries like they do.
And Kevin Durant hears it.
When picking up his Sportsman of the Year award from Sports Illustrated LeBron said that Durant is the guy that pushes him now, challenges him to be the best player he can. And Durant’s response, via the Oklahoman’s Thunder blog, shows the depth of respect the two have.
“Well, I really appreciate that comment because people want us to hate each other so bad. That’s true. People want us to hate each other,” Durant said with a smile. “I really respect him and I really compete against him hard — him and Kobe (Bryant). I play against those guys, they’re the guys who I’m looking at, who I want to get to, and I compete against those guys really, really hard, but we’re friends. We’re friends, everybody knows that. Once you get on that court and you’re playing against one of your friends, you play to win no matter what. Sometimes he might get the best of you, I might get the best of him one time. But I really respect him (James) and that’s cool that he thinks of me that way and I’ve just got to keep working hard to continue to get better.”
Some fans seem to think that if players are friends, they don’t go at each other as hard. I don’t buy it. Durant said as much. I mean, when you play hoops (or pool or whatever) against your friends, don’t you go at them harder than you do some random guy at the pick-up game?
You get the feeling we’re going to get to see LeBron and Durant go at each other with a lot on the line a few more times in the future. And that is going to be a lot of fun.