Durant earns praise for doing what LeBron was criticized for

5/16/13 in NBA   |   droth   |   127 respect

Even though Kevin Durant wMay 15, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) attempts a shot against Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) during the second half in game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Grizzlies defeated the Thunder 88-84. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sportsas saying that he could have done more to help his team win, he couldn't have.  He averaged 30.9 points, 9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.  He guarded opposing big guys and was making hustle plays, coaching up his teammates, and just generally being incredible.  Sure, he wasn't shooting quite as well as he usually does, but all of that added attention from the Memphis defense contributed to that.

He deserves all of the praise that he has received for leading his team and stepping his game up when Russell Westbrook went down.  

But what I find interesting is that he is being commended for being a one-man playoff contender while his natural rival and closest peer, LeBron James, did the same thing for years.  LeBron got his credit in the form of MVP awards, but he was consistently nailed for never winning a championship and failing down the stretch in important games.

Here are LeBron's playoff lines from each of his playoff runs in Cleveland:

2006: 30-8-5
2007: 25-8-8
2008: 28-7-7
2009: 35-9-7
2010: 29-9-7

I assume that the reason LeBron got picked apart and Durant is being praised is that we came to expect it from LeBron and this year was the first time Durant's ever had to do it alone.  It didn't matter than LeBron's best running mates were Antawn Jamison, a well-aged Shaq, and Mo Williams.  After five years of coming up short in Cleveland, his critics came to expect more even though it was not justified.

Last night, Durant was out of rhythm and missed shots throughout the game that he normally makes, including a jumper at the end of regulation would have tied it.  I do not mean to say that we should be ripping him a new one for his performance last night; we all get that players are human beings and can't always be perfect.  What I am saying is that everyone was way too hard on James and we hold these two superstars to much different standards.  

There are lots of reasons why LeBron has been criticized.  He did quit against Boston in his final series as a 
May 13, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA;  Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) dribbles the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Cavalier and he did make PR mistakes in the summer of 2010.  But there has never been a time when he didn't carry his team further than any other player could have carried them.   

LeBron's biggest flaw was that he was too good and his superhuman abilities are why we hold him to a different standard.  The Cavs were so good with him as their only star that they didn't have the same opportunities to add more lottery talent (Luke Jackson was their only lottery pick in the LeBron era) and didn't need to make any huge changes to revamp the roster.

Durant deserves praise for what he did in this year's playoffs, but LeBron deserves even more praise -- albeit retroactively -- for the dominant one-man show he put on in Cleveland.  

And I think he deserves praise for realizing what we've all just been reminded of -- that no superstar can win a championship alone.  His front office couldn't provide an adequate supporting cast so he found one himself, rather than subjecting himself to another decade of coming up short and  being blamed for it.  Instead of being taken to task for that decision, I think he should have been commended.
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