Kevin Durant is 24 years old, which is about the time most of us start really trying to find our identities, sometimes for the second or third time.
And Durant is now sick of an identity he feels has been following him around since he was a teenager.
“I’ve been second my whole life,” the Oklahoma City Thunder star told Sports Illustrated. “I was the second-best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the Finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.”
So there you have it. Kevin Durant just created the narrative thrust of a rivalry with LeBron James for the foreseeable future. James is No. 1 in every meaningful way. He is King James. He plays in the Eastern Conference and Durant plays in the West. And, like Durant, he is in his prime.
This is perfect. It’s perfect because it’s perfect, and it’s perfect because it’s real. This isn’t a media creation. This is Durant himself.
The extra layer is that, unlike in some other sports rivalries, the two combatants here are friends, and both of them have at various points in their careers had their so-called “killer instincts” called into question.
In both cases, a loss in the NBA Finals seemed to have hardened them. James’ Heat got beat in the 2011 Finals by Dallas, and James showed up in the 2012 playoffs like a monster in a man’s body, sending Durant home with the pain of being oh, so close.
“I’m not taking it easy on him,” Durant said. “Don’t you know I’m trying to destroy the guy every time I go on the court?”