FACT: Last season Lebron James hoisted the NBA championship trophy and walked away with the MVP, and did it against Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Many times the debate for best player comes down to championships, so relative to the comparison between Lebron AND Durant the score is 1-0. (Man drops the mic and walks away!).
For those that want to make the case that Lebron was on a better team, below are stats courtesy of nba.com. Lebron vs. Durant head to head 2012 playoffs: http://www.nba.com/advancedstats/player-vs-player.html#LeBron-James-vs-Kevin-Durant|2544,201142;year=201112;season=p
What do these stats tell us? There were 5 games and 201 minutes during the NBA finals last year when James and Durant were on the court together. For a large percentage of those minutes, the two guarded each other. Most fans would go straight to the points stat and say Durant scored 25.6 vs. Lebron’s 22.9, case closed. The argument should/could, however, be centered on which player is the more complete player and is the player that helps their team win. Lebron averaged 8.4 rebounds and 6.3 assists during the time Durant was on the court, and those were better numbers then what he made when Durant was off the court. For comparison purposes, Durant averaged 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists both of which were less then what he got when Lebron was off the court. The most telling statistic may be the (+/-) stat which calculates how the team did while the players were on the court together in terms of points scored. The Heat scored 4.5 points more than the Thunder when both players were in the game. That’s not huge but it’s decisive.
In summary, most times the debate between two players for “best player” can’t be measured but the above proves it can be. The two met on the biggest possible NBA stage, played the same position, and even guarded each other. Lebron and the Heat won the series, Lebron won MVP and out played Durant statistically during those games. Queue the "All I Do is Win" song!
If one series does not a solid argument make then below are some more stats from this very 2012-2013 season. The head to head match-up this year was more of the same except the (+/-) was a 17 point advantage for Lebron. Lebron vs. Durant head to head 2012-2013 reg season: http://www.nba.com/advancedstats/player-vs-player.html#LeBron-James-vs-Kevin-Durant|2544,201142;year=201213;season=r
The bottom line is there is no arguing that Kevin Durant is a great scorer, leading the league the past few seasons. But in terms of complete player, the argument for Lebron both statistically and via the “eye test” lens is still pretty overwhelming. When looking at the most recognized skill sets evaluated in the NBA, here is the way it should break down.
Ball Handling: Lebron
The leading argument that is made against Lebron is the “he can’t perform in the clutch” argument. Admittedly, Lebron has a past history of struggles but those have been remedied. Look at the advanced stats that consider what the player does in the clutch. Lebron’s numbers across the board are better during crunch time then they are normally. And the ever present (+/-) statistic is an astounding 21.6.
Lebron James Advanced Stats: http://www.nba.com/advancedstats/player.html#LeBron-James|2544;year=201213;season=r;split;splitValue=all
Kevin Durant Advanced States: http://www.nba.com/advancedstats/player.html#Kevin-Durant|201142;year=201213;season=r;split;splitValue=all
The argument however rages on and with every Durant game where he lights it up for 30 or more, the Durant supporters will get louder. Meanwhile, Lebron will continue to be the most efficient and well rounded player maybe in history. NBA fans can only hope that the two will match up again this year in the finals so we can all “witness” who is the “king”!