Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson said Kevin Durant deserves “a lot of praise” for making world champion LeBron James an even better player this season.
“Because a lot of times your rival or the guy you go up against will bring the best out of you,” Johnson told the Miami Herald off the air on Thursday morning. “Larry Bird definitely did that for me.”
Johnson said winning the NBA championship will have a significant impact on James.
“I think everything changes,” Johnson said. “He can now feel, 'You know what? I'm the best player in the world because I've won a ring. The ring says so, not the media, not the marketing says so. But my game actually says so.'
“We're judged by championships, and LeBron will be bigger across the world with a championship. I think all the naysayers go away and I think it's only going to make him better, too. Michael Jordan got better after his first championship, and I think the same thing happens for LeBron. His popularity will grow. The NBA benefits from that. … It's going to be LeBron-mania like we've never seen before.
“Thank God he's in the NBA, that we have a chance to see him every day. And thank God he's going to play in the Olympics, and that the world will get the chance to see this unbelievable dominant player on the biggest stage.”
If it has this significant for James, it stands to reason it will have a significant impact on Durant and his Thunder teammates, should they ever win the title.
It took James nine seasons to win an NBA championship. Durant just finished his fifth season.
A list of players and how many seasons it took to win their first crown:
17 — Jason Kidd (Dallas)
15 — Gary Payton (Miami)
12 — Jerry West (LA Lakers)
11 — Oscar Robertson (Milwaukee)