We've all heard the quote.
Kevin Durant says he's tired of being second.
He was ranked the second best high school player in the country. He was picked second in the 2007 NBA Draft. And three times in the past four years, he finished second in MVP voting to LeBron James, the only player on the planet widely considered to be better than Durant.
This is Durant's time to change that trend.
With point guard Russell Westbrook projected to miss at least seven weeks after undergoing a second arthroscopic surgery to his right knee, Durant now has an opportunity to lead the Thunder as its lone remaining All-Star.
It's an unfortunate reality but one that Durant can use to solidify himself, finally, as the league's most valuable player.
The next 26 games — the number of remaining contests Westbrook is projected to miss — could be a showcase for how dominant Durant can be. Because for as great as he's been over the last four seasons, Durant still has had two road blocks impeding him in his pursuit of the MVP award.
The first was Westbrook, his trusty sidekick, the player who often sparks rallies or ignites runs. Westbrook's presence, as well as James Harden's in years past, has prevented Durant from garnering the complete attention of the voters. It's as if Durant was penalized for not having the pressure of captaining the Thunder alone.
The second has been James.
No matter what Durant has done over the past four seasons, James has found a way to be better.
That's again been the case so far this season.
James is currently the consensus favorite for MVP. Durant is a close second, with Indiana's Paul George, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul rounding out the conversation.
Durant is averaging more points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots than James, while the Thunder currently has a better record than the Heat. James' superior defense and spectacular efficiency, however, has set him apart.
He entered Saturday's game at Portland shooting a career-high 59.2 percent from the field. According to ESPN.com, if James maintains his current rate he'll become the 11th player in NBA history with a listed height of 6-foot-9 or shorter to shoot at least 59 percent when taking at least 500 shots. He'll become only the second player since Charles Barkley in 1989-90 to be that accurate on at least 1,000 shots.
That's why Durant must make a mockery of the Thunder's most recent hardship. He's still playing catch-up in what in many categories is a career season.
Keep the Thunder at or near the top of the rugged Western Conference Standings, though, and Durant will get the credit he deserves.
Many already are wondering aloud how far the Thunder will fall without Westbrook.
“Oklahoma City goes from a heavy favorite to win the West to a slight underdog,” ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton wrote, using data from his projection system.
Previous attempts by Durant at keeping the Thunder afloat without Westbrook were unsuccessful.
Oklahoma City went 3-6 in last year's postseason following Westbrook's initial knee injury. The Thunder is 3-1 this year without Westbrook.
In those contests, Durant has averaged 30.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting 45 percent. At first glance, those numbers appear extraordinary. But they belie how much both Durant and the Thunder struggled. Durant's shooting percentages plummeted without Westbrook, and OKC's efficiency also went into a tailspin.
In 25 games with Westbrook this season, for example, the Thunder averaged 107.9 points. In four games without him, the Thunder averaged just 91.5 points.
Additionally, a .462 winning percentage — the life the Thunder has known without Westbrook — extrapolates into a 12-15 record should Westbrook be sidelined for 27 games.
Hardly a record worthy of MVP consideration.
So if Durant is indeed done with being second, now is his best time to prove it.