One of the biggest pieces of “breaking news” for the NBA recently is that LeBron James and Kevin Durant were, once again, working out together this offseason. Before this past season, these two worked out together during the lockout, and many people wondered why Durant was working out with “the enemy.” Some say though that if you want to get better, compete against someone who’s better than you are, so maybe this is the approach Durant chose to take last year and this year again. According to Skip Bayless, Durant is making the wrong move here by working out with James. He claims that LeBron finally won an NBA championship because when Durant guarded him, Durant allowed James to attack the basket, play freely, and play how he wanted to. When James and the Heat lost to the Mavericks in the Finals last season, the Mavericks were able to get under his skin and frustrate him defensively. Bayless claims that since Durant and James became “best buddies” during the offseason prior to when James won the Championship, James was able to play more comfortably and dictate more on offense.
Watch more of Bayless’ opinion here.
Some memorable quotes from the video:
1. “Kevin Durant is falling right into LeBron James’ trap.” -Skip Bayless
2. “LeBron is a shrewd operator, and he knows full well that you keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” -Skip Bayless
3. “I say, once again, Kevin Durant, congratulations. You are owned by LeBron James. Have fun in next year’s NBA Finals, finishing second again.” -Skip Bayless
4. “Kevin Durant is not owned by anybody. You have to contend with that brother. He is not a star. He is a superstar.” -Stephen A. Smith
In response to Bayless, Durant tweeted “@RealSkipBayless u brainwashing these people out here, they think since you on espn you know what you talkin bout…please, nobody owns me.” Durant quickly deleted the tweet soon after though. Watch Bayless’ opinion on Durant’s response here.
Some more memorable quotes from the video:
1. “I’ve said many times to you, he [Kevin Durant] is my favorite player in the league. But repeatedly, when I’ve tried to help him or protect him or defend him, he responds by attacking me, saying I have no idea what I’m talking about.” -Skip Bayless to Stephen A. Smith
2. “Psychologically, LeBron now owns Kevin Durant. I love Kevin. I’ll make the case to you that he’s still a better player all-around than LeBron James, but right now, he’s falling right back into the trap of getting too close to his primary threat. This is his primary rival, and LeBron’s biggest threat to winning multiple rings is now Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.” -Skip Bayless to Stephen A. Smith
3. “I’m just trying to help you, and, someday, Kevin Durant, you’ll wake up and say ‘You know what? He was right about this.'” -Skip Bayless
4. “He’s not going to say that because you didn’t sit there and say that he’s losing his competitive edge. You said he’s owned, and I don’t know any man, with any degree of integrity, including you, who would concede ownership of yourself to another human being.” -Stephen A. Smith
So, who is right in this debate? Is Skip Bayless right that Durant is “getting too close to his primary threat” and that this will result in more rings for LeBron and not Durant? Or is Stephen A. Smith right that Durant is allowed to feel disrespected based on what Bayless said? I think that Bayless has some elements to his argument that are true. I do believe that James was able to dominate offensively during the NBA Finals against Durant, but not necessarily because they’re too close of friends. I believe that Durant, despite his long reach and his wingspan, is not that strong defensively and didn’t defend James well enough overall. Against James, defenders need to step up even more than usual, so Durant didn’t respond as he should have defensively. It is true that James might have naturally felt more comfortable playing against Durant because they’ve played each other and worked out together many times, and that was one of the reasons why he was successful against him in the Finals. However, that’s not the only reason why Durant wasn’t successful guarding James, but it is an important factor to consider in this debate. I also agree with Stephen A. Smith that Bayless doesn’t need to be so harsh and thoughtless when saying Durant was now “owned” by James, because that is extremely disrespectful.
In baseball and according to Mike Krukow, the Giants broadcaster, a hitter can have “ownage” over a pitcher if they have an impressive batting average and have had success against a pitcher very often. However, the concept of “ownage” doesn’t mean that this specific hitter owns this pitcher, even if it is psychologically. This particular hitter has had great success against this pitcher, but that doesn’t mean that he owns and takes over the mind of the pitcher in a dominant or superior way. A hitter’s high batting average against a pitcher might give him confidence in the batter’s box, but that doesn’t mean the pitcher can’t come right back and strike him out and humble him a little. The term “owning” in basketball is completely different. There is no statistic that measures someone’s field goal percentage against one specific defender, and that’s why “ownage” never comes up. Basketball is too much of a team sport to consider one player “owning” another player. A player might perform well when playing against another player, but that doesn’t mean he “owns” the other player, because there are so many other factors that go into a player’s success.
LeBron James might have won a title now, but that doesn’t mean he is more superior to Kevin Durant. Plenty of people have won NBA Championships, but that doesn’t mean they are superior to someone who hasn’t won one. For example, Adam Morrison won two NBA titles with the Lakers. Is he more superior to Durant? Does he “own” Durant? Not even close. In fact, that notion would be ridiculously absurd. LeBron James might feel more comfortable around Kevin Durant now that he’s played against him more and that might mean that he’ll play better offensively against him, but in no way does that mean that he “owns” Kevin Durant or that he ever will. Durant isn’t necessarily getting too close to “the enemy” though. If James feels comfortable playing against Durant, then Durant needs to respond by stepping up and playing even better when he goes up against James. There will always be a debate about if Durant or James is better. However, there should never be a debate on if LeBron James “owns” Kevin Durant. Bayless brings up an interesting point, but he hurts his credibility and his argument by using harsh, unnecessary words. He needs to respect the players and respect the game.