James is clearly better than Durant

Comparing the superstars across six categories, including clutch play

Updated: June 22, 2012, 12:42 AM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN the Magazine
LeBron James and Kevin Durant Getty ImagesLeBron James is the reigning MVP for a reason, though Kevin Durant comes close.

It's only fitting that the two teams left standing feature the game's two best players, superstars who happen to play the same position. That one will earn his first ring by outplaying the other merely adds to the drama that is this year's NBA Finals. Although LeBron James and Kevin Durant are at vastly different stages in their careers, the debate as to which one makes a better case as the league's top player rages on. But it ends here.

Who's really better?

Shooting

Durant has emerged as the league's most dangerous shooter. There is nowhere on the floor he can't beat the defense with his jumper. From 8-foot floaters to 3s, Durant is a constant threat. His ultra-crisp release comes high above his head with a minimum of body movement and setup, allowing him to release a shot several feet beyond the arc with relative ease. Durant gathers quickly, barely leaves the ground and can get off a shot in his natural shooting motion in less than a second after catching a pass. This leads to an astonishing amount of uncontested looks.

What's been awe-inspiring is how easily Durant can score on James, who is regarded by many as the game's best perimeter defender. And he does it with the simplest, most straightforward of moves. In Game 4, he took James off the dribble several times for 10-foot baseline pull-ups that didn't require any pump fakes. On another occasion, he calmly waited in a triple-threat position at the top of the key, rose up and drilled a 3 over James without even using his dribble.

James can create clean looks as well and has terrific mechanics, but he can be very streaky. His mid-range jumpers are usually some version of a turnaround or fadeaway, and it's a little frustrating that he doesn't maximize his size on the perimeter to get looks. He often settles for bailout 3s, and when he pulls up from deep it's still a bit of an adventure, even after nine years in the league.

Advantage: Durant


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Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine