Because of the timing of his rise to stardom, Kevin Durant has been and will forever be linked to LeBron James.
Their basketball lives are intertwined. Comparisons have been made. Legacy arguments will be had. And, possibly, more NBA Finals meetings await.
But James is not the first player Durant has been linked to.
And he's certainly not the only one on the Heat.
This offseason, Miami took on two reclamation projects, one recovering from injury issues, the other from some personal demons. And Durant has a past history with both.
The first is Greg Oden. He's a 7-footer with all the skills and size to be a premier center in the NBA. But five major knee surgeries before his 25th birthday robbed him of his athleticism, and almost his entire career.
Back before the 2007 draft, there was a legit debate between Oden and Durant for the first overall pick. Portland went with Oden. The then-Seattle SuperSonics took Durant, and Oklahoma City has reaped the benefits.
But because of that choice, Oden's name has continually popped up over the past five seasons, as Durant rose to superstardom and Oden didn't play a game.
Now, though, Oden is finally back in the league. And of late, his role has increased, playing a combined 23 minutes the past few games for Miami.
“I'm happy for Greg, man,” Durant said. “It's just been so tough for him the last few years with injuries. No doubt in my mind he would have been a dominant center in this league if he didn't get hurt.
“Of course it's going to take him some time to get back in the swing of things,” Durant continued. “I'm just glad to see him back on the court, just having been linked together since high school.”
But since before high school, Durant has been tied to another member of the Heat — Michael Beasley, a Maryland native who grew up as one of Durant's closest friends.
Beasley, like Durant, went second overall in the draft after a dominant freshman season in the Big 12 at Kansas State But three teams, some noted drug problems and an arrest later, Beasley's once-promising career seemed to hit an impasse this offseason. He was released by the Suns.
But Beasley, like Oden, found a welcoming home in Miami. A reclamation clinic. And, for now, it seems to have worked.
Beasley is only averaging 9.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, but it sounds like his life seems to finally be in order.
“Mike, a guy I grew up with, one of my best friends,” Durant said. “I'm just happy he's getting a chance again. He's learned from his mistakes, and those guys have taken him in and embraced him, forgot about his past, just let him go out and have fun playing basketball.”
All the talk on Wednesday will be about Durant against LeBron. But the makeovers of Oden and Beasley provide another interesting layer to this budding rivalry.