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Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James Show begins Thursday in Oklahoma City

The warm-up act is over. Time for the main event. And the curtain opens at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
by Berry Tramel Published: February 16, 2014

The warm-up act is over. Time for the main event. And the curtain opens in Oklahoma City.

Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Thunder vs. Heat. Hunters vs. Hunted. And it lands in our lap Thursday night with the NBA's latest great individual rivalry.

LeBron/Carmelo. LeBron/Kobe. Michael Jordan/take your pick (Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, Isiah Thomas). All have tried and failed to match the great Magic/Bird or Wilt/Russell rivalries of yesteryear.

Now Durant/LeBron takes its swing. And the latest installment is at Chesapeake Arena, with TNT ready to give America what it wanted in the All-Star Game but had no hope of getting: a Durant/LeBron referendum.

The All-Star Game, which annually provides all the entertainment value of trampoline dunkers, is in the rearview mirror. Which is the best place for it.

Now we can hone in on real basketball. The NBA's stretch run. The playoffs. The Finals. The victory parade on Biscayne Boulevard or along the San Antonio Riverwalk or, be still our heart, the Bricktown Canal.

The All-Star Game provided a good stage to talk about the rivalry between the planet's two best players.

But LeBron wanted no part of such a script. He's a wise man. In the same way that LeBron avoids the all-star dunk contest because he's got everything to lose and nothing to gain, LeBron let the all-star plot wither. He'll save the drama for when whistles blow and defense matters.

Durant seemed willing to tango — even said so Friday during all-star interviews, hinting that a few mano-mano minutes in New Orleans wouldn't hurt anybody — and didn't completely lose the hard edge even when LeBron declined to participate.

Durant even barked at the refs a time or two in the first half Sunday night, when otherwise seldom was heard a discouraging word. And Durant seemed more intent on an all-star statement, though both superstars took 14 first-half shots.

Durant finished with monster numbers (38 points on 14-of-27 shooting, 10 rebounds and six assists). LeBron had 22 points on 11-of-22 shooting, seven rebounds and seven assists. LeBron never showed interest in being drawn into a duel.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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