Kobe Bryant has won five NBA championships. He's had a different victim each time: Indiana, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Orlando, Boston.
Tim Duncan has won four NBA championships. He's had a different victim in each Finals: New York, New Jersey, Detroit, Cleveland.
Hard to find an Ali-Frazier without repeated trips into the ring. Hard to replicate Nicklaus-Palmer if they're not in the final group on Sunday. Hard to get fired up about Connors-McEnroe if they keep playing in the quarterfinals.
Which brings us to LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
The NBA has found its great white whale. A quarter-century search finally has struck oil. The mother lode.
A sport built on the backs of Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell in the ‘60s, and Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird in the ‘80s, has a marquee matchup for the 21st century.
LeBron vs. Durant.
They certainly delivered in the just-concluded NBA Finals. LeBron shrugged off the demons of past failures and played basketball as well as it can be played. Durant, in defeat, was historically excellent.
Now, if their teams can cooperate, and both the Thunder and the Heat appear on track to do so, the next great NBA rivalry has arrived.
“I would enjoy that,” Durant said Saturday. “That would be fun … Heat-Thunder rivalry. But we'll see. There's so many great teams in this league, you never know what will happen.”
Rivalries thrive in the playoffs. Wilt and Russell met in eight series in the ‘60s. Bird and Magic combated in three NBA Finals. John Havlicek and Jerry West went at it in five Finals. Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas battled four straight years in the playoffs.
The Thunder and Heat figure to be conference favorites going into next season. Make the Finals again, or better yet several times over the next decade, and we're looking at a classic American rivalry.
“They're going to be a team to be reckoned with for a lot of years because they're young, and they're going to use this experience as motivation,” LeBron said after the Heat ended the Finals with a Game 5 victory Thursday night.
“You know, this is not the last time we'll see Oklahoma City. This won't be the last time we see them in the Finals.”
Here's what makes the LeBron/Durant rivalry so appetizing. Both were phenomenal in the Finals. Durant was great. LeBron was better.
LeBron had a series-clinching triple double — 26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists — and for the series averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists. He shot 47.2 percent from the field.
Durant, hounded incessantly by LeBron or fellow defensive demon Shane Battier, averaged 30.6 points a game while shooting 54.8 percent from the field. Few players ever have had such an efficient NBA Finals.
“Great moment for myself and for him,” LeBron said of their Finals showdown.
The series was barely over before fans, media, players nationwide started talking about a rematch.
“That would be fun,” Durant said. “I enjoy competing against LeBron James. I enjoy trying to kill him every time down. I'm sure he enjoys it as well. It's a fun rivalry, trying to go at him every play. Be the better player and also win.”
Amid the Heat's on-court celebration after Game 5, Durant and LeBron shared a postgame moment.
“He just told me I had a great series,” Durant said. “I told him congrats and enjoy it. He had a hell of a year.”
Durant and LeBron aren't enemies. This isn't Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. Durant and LeBron even staged that flag football game in Akron during the NBA lockout. Durant even called them “close friends.”
That didn't make losing any easier. Didn't make watching that Heat celebration any more tolerable.
“He won,” Durant said. “As a competitor, it was tough to go see that. Tough to even go over there and talk to him. He has the bragging rights over the summer. It's going to be fun the next few years.”
This is all splendid speculation, but nothing is assured. For all the revelry of the Lakers-Celtics of the ‘80s, they met in the Finals just thrice.
In the West, the Lakers never stay down long, the Mavericks retooled to load their roster and the Spurs remain the Spurs.
In the East, Chicago might have derailed a Heat-Thunder Finals this season if not for Derrick Rose's knee injury.
But same as Durant and LeBron are the NBA's hot-button players, the Heat and Thunder are the hot-button teams.
“You know, it's scary to see those young guys, man, and to be in this position,” Miami's Dwyane Wade said of the Thunder. “They're so talented. They have an unbelievably bright future here.
“This is one of the best Finals, when you talk about matchups, when you talk about everyone tuning in and wanting to see … we lived up to the billing.
“They're going to be around for a while, and we would love to be around just as long and just as much.”
And if so, Durant-LeBron will take its place among the NBA's greatest rivalries.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.