OAKLAND, United States, Jun 1 – Cleveland playmaker LeBron James and Golden State star Kevin Durant have been chasing greatness as friendly rivals throughout their NBA careers, but now they are on a collision course.
Defending champion Cleveland meets Golden State for an unprecedented third consecutive NBA Finals game starting Thursday, with James seeking his fourth crown in his seventh consecutive finals appearance and eighth overall, and Durant still yearning for his first crown.
“Our relationship is very good,” James said of Durant. “Our relationship consists of if someone needed something, we can always reach out to one another.
“We’ve always had a mutual respect, being competitors. So all over the course of the years throughout his journey, I’ve always had an open-door policy with KD.”
James is 3-4 overall in the best-of-seven series, losing his first appearance 10 years ago, but has become the only man to lead two different clubs into the finals four times.
“He’s special in so many ways. We see that every day,” Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said of James. “His approach, his routine and just his relentlessness in chasing that greatness is special to watch.
“We talk about guys setting the tone. He’s the best to do it. He’s our leader and we follow him at all costs… LeBron James is very special in so many ways, but probably number one is his pursuit of being great.”
Durant, whose Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the James-led Miami Heat in the 2012 finals, left the Thunder last July for the Warriors and while he hungers to become a champion, he shrugs off any notion of extra pressure.
“I’m just trying to be the best me I can be. That’s the only pressure I worry about,” Durant said. “If I don’t play up to my standards, that’s when I get upset.
“I’ll just approach basketball like I always have, which is with love and care and hard work and we’ll see what happens.”
Adding Durant to a club that was one win shy of consecutive crowns offers James a formidable challenge in order to earn his own repeat title.
“He’s one of the most dangerous guys we have in the (basketball) world already so it makes it even more dangerous when you equip that talent, that skill, with those guys,” James said of Durant joining such stars as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
– Hard lessons drive Durant –
Durant says he can take little from his prior finals trip or enduring critics of his move from Oklahoma City, seeing all past experience as part of what has made him the player he is now.
“I know I’ve grown as a player just through experience from the last five years, but if I don’t go out there and execute, none of that matters,” Durant said.
“I’ve still got to do my routine, put in the same work and execute on the court no matter what I’ve been through.
“Everything that happened in the past, it happened and I learned from it and hopefully it makes me better this time around.”
Green admires Durant’s work ethic and desire to improve through hard work, saying the intense desire to win a title Durant puts on himself is greater than any critics could muster.
“Pressure is what you make it,” Green said. “To say he’s going to be under pressure because everyone is going to try to make it like he’s under pressure, that doesn’t matter.
“Kevin tries to reach greatness with every single thing he does. He wants to be great. He’s going to go out there and try to reach greatness and with that comes pressure from yourself more than anybody can ever put on you.”