Miami Heat forward LeBron James says Kevin Durant is driving him to be the best player he can be rather than rest on his recent laurels.
“I know there is someone, somewhere, trying to take my spot,” James said in the upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated in which the magazine celebrates him as its Sportsman of the Year. “And I know where he is, too. He's in Oklahoma.
“He's my inspiration because I see the direction he's headed, and it's the same direction I'm headed. I know his mind-set, and he knows mine. It's a collision course. We're driving one another.”
Durant and James, friends since Durant was in high school, met in the NBA Finals last year, with James leading the Heat to the championship. Durant averaged 30.6 points in the series. James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists to win Finals MVP.
Despite their rivalry, Durant and James have spent time working out together in each of the past two summers. Both have downplayed their summer sessions given they're competitors and have repeatedly said they're just trying to get better.
“What's important to LeBron is what happens when he is facing KD again, or whoever it is in the Finals,” Heat president Pat Riley told SI. “He needs that player to look back at him and think, ‘This son of a b**** is too big, too strong, and his will is too great.”
DURANT'S CLOSE-TO-SPECTACULAR DUNK
With 32.5 seconds remaining in the first half Tuesday, Durant brought many fans to their feet with a near poster dunk on Nets forward Andray Blatche.
Durant drove down the right side and took flight from about seven feet away from the basket. The only thing standing in between Durant and the rim was Blatche, who Durant tried to jump over to throw down a one-handed dunk.
Durant missed, but a blocking foul was called on Blatche.
Still, the attempt generated so much buzz that Durant was asked about it after the game, specifically why he didn't jump even higher.
“I didn't have no more left in the tank, man,” Durant said. “I wanted to finish it so bad. I know Dray from him playing in D.C., and that's where I'm from. So I would talk a little trash to him after that one. But I'm glad I got to the free throw line and got two shots.”
Asked where the dunk would have ranked, Durant didn't hesitate.
“That probably would have been my best dunk ever,” he said. “I don't think it would have been the best that you've seen in the NBA. But that would have probably been my personal best.”
With a 117-111 win at Brooklyn on Tuesday, the Thunder now has scored at least 100 points in 10 straight games.
It's the longest such streak in the franchise's Oklahoma City era and the longest since the Sonics also had a 10-game streak in December 1997, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
If the Thunder extends its streak to 11 games with a win Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers, it will be the franchise's longest streak since 1995, when the Sonics scored at least 100 points in 19 straight games.
The Thunder is 13-1 when it scores at least 100 points and is averaging a league-best 105.7 points. Currently, the Thunder is outscoring opponents by a league-best 9.6 points per game. Should the Thunder end the season with its current scoring margin it would mark the NBA's largest scoring differential since Boston won by an average of 10.3 points during its 2008 championship season.