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LeBron James: Kevin Durant will feel title pressure ‘when I retire’

Feb 13, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Miami Heat Getty Images

A statistical projection developed by John Hollinger pegs the Oklahoma City Thunder as this season’s most likely NBA champions. So does Kevin Pelton’s formula.

The Thunder of have the the league’s best record (42-12_, best player (Kevin Durant) and arguably best No. 2 once he returns (Russell Westbrook). They’ve been to the Finals before and have fallen short.

This is the exact profile of a team that should face immense pressure to win a title.

So why hasn’t Oklahoma City, which admittedly does deal with some high expectations, come under the strongest microscope?

LeBron James.

And he knows it.

Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

When does he think the pressure will truly shift to Durant to take the Larry O’Brien trophy?

“When I retire,” James replied. “When I retire. They’re still talking about, am I going to win a third? You know…”

LeBron is the most analyzed athlete of all time. The best player in basketball, a sport with the most identifiable stars, he’s failed and succeeded in dramatic fashion during the internet era. Nobody before him has been put so thoroughly through the ringer on Twitter, television and hundreds of other forms of communication.

He’s won the last two NBA titles, so thoroughly capturing our attention that Durant and the Thunder don’t have a chance. The pressure on LeBron to win a title his first season in Miami was higher than on any non-defending champion ever, so it sure hasn’t gone away now that the Heat have entrenched themselves as favorites.

Not even Durant’s MVP-caliber season will change that.

However, I wonder whether Durant’s success influenced LeBron’s quote. I thought Ben Standig of CSN Washington might a wise point yesterday:

Until recently, LeBron hadn’t sought as much attention during the Heat’s championship run. But that’s changed in a hurry.

It seemed LeBron learned a less from his bluster during his first year in Miami – “Not one, not two, not three…” – and wanted to keep a, relatively, lower profile.

Now, I think he’s purposefully going out of his way to draw attention. The Heat have coasted most of the season. If they don’t kick it into gear, they won’t win a third straight title. Maybe a brighter spotlight will bring out their best effort.

The plan makes sense. Miami can’t keep going like this.

As LeBron knows, the pressure is on.

  1. buffalowned - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    They’re “coasting” so they are able to kick it into gear when they play Indiana and in the finals. They know what it takes to win a championship and it has nothing to do with the regular season. They’ve done it with home court and without. Last year they went on that 27 game run then struggled to sustain energy throughout the playoffs. They could only play at that incredibly high intensity every other game from the ECF through the finals. They are being smart resting Wade and it will show in May and June.

    • southsidegroovin281 - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      Do you need knee pads?? Geesh!

      • romestar82 - Feb 13, 2014 at 5:00 PM

        may want some lube with those knee pads too

    • excelsior07 - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:46 PM

      They’re not coasting Wade still is not 100 percent and Lebron’s conditioning is not what it was over the past two years and league adaptation has set in. Other teams now know how to play them.

      • reesesteel23 - Feb 13, 2014 at 5:12 PM

        Lets all ignore the fact that Lebron and company have played something like 67 more games(in the past 3 years) than the average team because of all the payoff runs…

      • kinggw - Feb 13, 2014 at 5:23 PM

        League adaptation has set in? Don’t think so. The Heat know when games are important and they’ve had losses to horrible teams like Utah, Boston, Knicks, Sixers, etc. The good news is that they are 13-4 vs teams with a .500 record. Also, they are right where they need to be.

        Last year at the all star break they were 36-14. This year they are 37-14.

        The league hasn’t figured out the Heat. They are making the second season their priority while doing just enough to get by in the first one.

      • spthegr8 - Feb 13, 2014 at 5:47 PM

        Wade is NEVER gonna be 100% again. He chose to have his meniscus removed a few years back to get right back on the court but now he is paying the price for it. That’s why D Rose and & Russ had there’s repaired & not removed. It takes years of your career. Hindsight is 20/20 but I’m sure he regrets it now. I like D Wade. IMO, he is the 3rd best 2 guard of All-Time!!!

      • buffalowned - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:22 PM

        Lol lebron’s conditioning is not what it was the last 2 years? did you see him put up cleveland type numbers last night? keep thinking that teams have the heat figured out…the bottom line is no one in the NBA matches up well with them besides Indiana

      • spthegr8 - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:51 PM

        ^^^^^^ I wouldn’t say the Pacers match up with them well but they give them problems cuz the Heat can’t much up with them. Too much size for the Heat!! Teams with good Bigs give the Heat problems. That’s the 1 weakness they have. They are a small team!

      • sportsfan18 - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:09 PM

        reesesteel23

        The Bulls played all those extra games too, BOTH times they won three titles in a row.

        And they didn’t lose in the finals either like the Heat did to the Mavs.

        For their first title they had to get through the defending champion Pistons to reach the finals and they did by sweeping them.

        Then they beat Magic Johnson’s Lakers in 5 games in the Finals.

        I could go on, but I have only one other thing to mention. In the 6 finals that the Bulls won with MJ, they won EACH series in 6 or less games.

        MJ NEVER let an NBA Finals he was in even get to a 7th game…

  2. zoomy123 - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:23 PM

    Kevin Durant is the most unscrutinized superstar in the NBA. He should be thanking his lucky stars that he’s #2. Durant was lucky enough to play with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka + James Harden and was NEVER under the kind of pressure Lebron James faced from day #1 in Cleveland. Durant even failed miserably in the clutch vs. Memphis in the playoffs last year and he was largely let off the hook. And since James isn’t retiring any time soon Durant will remain unscrutinized for the next 5 years at least.

  3. miamatt - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    He’s totally right. KD is still firmly entrenched in honeymoon status. At the same point in his career, LBJ was already being ripped to shreds as weak-minded, scared, and not clutch enough to win the big one. This was the case even though his team success, when compared between to KD’s, was virtually identical.

    That’s not a knock on KD at all, it is simply reality.

    Still, as a Heat fan, LBJ is starting to spit some fire and in a perverse sort of way I’d like to see KD win the MVP because you know damn well LeBron would take that as a major slight. And yet…. for all the talk of how the Heat are off to a slow start, there they are, what? Like 2.5 games off the pace for league’s best record? And of all the teams in the top 5, Miami has BY FAR the least to prove during the regular season, and BY FAR the most incentive to conserve energy and rest players (true of the Spurs as well).

    • excelsior07 - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      So far KD is the MVP no doubt about that. it cracks me up the Miami fans claim they are conserving energy, yeah I guess Wade’s knees really are not bad..

      • heat256 - Feb 13, 2014 at 5:25 PM

        If it were the playoffs Wade would most likely play. Him sitting out is smart and will allow him to conserve himself. They are doing pretty well without him being a fixed presence in the lineup, so while the hope is they develop some continuity before the playoffs, no one is truly panicking.

      • miamatt - Feb 13, 2014 at 5:56 PM

        @excelsior7: I don’t believe I said anything about the MVP race, nor is that relevant to the post at hand. Also, you forgot to add “right now” to the end of your “MVP no doubt” statement.

        You know what makes me crack up? Fans and media who act like they’ve never seen this movie before. Look up Miami’s record at the all star break the past four years, the Heat are actually quite consistent. And conserving energy isn’t some made up concept, it’s a clear strategy, and you see the same thing (and more) with San Antonio. It’s not an excuse, losses are losses, but Spoelstra- again, if you actually pay close attention- uses the regular season like an experimental lab. Rashard Lewis, Michael Beasley, James Jones, Roger Mason Jr., Haslem….. they’ve all had runs in and out of the rotation. In spite of frequently changing lineups, the Heat have the best record in the league against plus .500 competition. Indiana can go all out for the best record -make no mistake they absolutely need it- but let’s judge what approach to regular season worked best come June.

        As far as Wade is concerned, that’s the million dollar question. I can’t sit here and say, “Everything will for sure be great with him, there is no problem,”… but he’s on a maintenance program, as was the stated plan as far back as August. Again, let’s see what happens in April, May and June.

        When you are ready to contribute something to the discussion, instead of just throwing the first irrelevant comment that comes to mind at the first Heat fan you can find, let me know.

    • fanofthegame79 - Feb 14, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      Amen, miamatt!

    • anjohn39 - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:51 PM

      At that age Lebron wasn’t embracing the closer status

  4. casualcommenter - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    A lot of hay is being made out of this quote, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. A lot of people love to love LeBron, and a lot of people love to criticize LeBron. You see it on this site all the time – antistratfordian versus cantonbound. By contrast, people generally either like Durant or are neutral about him. LeBron is arguing that Durant will never be heavily criticized so long as LeBron is still in the league because he’s the bigger lightning rod. It’s not unreasonable

    Personally, I disagree with him. People forget that like Durant, LeBron was extremely popular for most of his early years in Cleveland, too, as a talented player who turned a small market franchise into a contender. The criticism started getting louder once LeBron was around 24 to 25 years old after he made the Finals once but struggled to return there, and then it peaked in 2010 when he was 26.

    My guess? Durant led his team to the Finals 2 years ago. Last year, he avoided criticism for the Thunder’s second round playoff loss because of the Westbrook injury. If the Thunder don’t make it to the Finals this year with a healthy Westbrook and Durant, the criticism – fair and unfair – will start to grow, even if LeBron is in the league.

    • calkinsrob - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      well said.

  5. cantonbound13 - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    Only a random drug test can stop LeBron

    • ranfan12 - Feb 13, 2014 at 8:47 PM

      momentarily, and then he’ll be back driving to the lane again at the top of the league

    • sportsfan18 - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:12 PM

      It was the GERMANS who used the most steroids back in the day you know…

      Where Kobe goes every other weekend to get his “knee” worked on…

      • anjohn39 - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:56 PM

        It was actually the Russians

    • anjohn39 - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Yo ain’t lieing… Look at lebron and D wades neck , jaws then head.. HUGE, then compare it to the other nba players

  6. bucrightoff - Feb 13, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    How insecure can a guy be when he’s almost universally regarded as the best player of this generation? Apparently extremely. LeBron is starting to come off as pretty pathetic.

    • miamatt - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:01 PM

      he’s not the only one…

    • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:26 PM

      A fact is only a fact. You don’t have to get emotional about it.

      • bucrightoff - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:29 PM

        No Anti, a fact is something that can be definitively proven. LeBron is speculating. A fact, for instance, is that you have some of LeBron’s pubes in your mouth from being on his nuts too much.

      • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        You’re speculating.

        Once Durant becomes the ringless face of the league he will feel 10x the pressure, that is absolutely a fact.

      • bucrightoff - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:38 PM

        I’m pretty sure Anti is a PBT plant designed to draw more page views by posting his LeBron love letters that will draw strong comments. Or he’s LeBron’s mom. How was Delonte by the way Ms. James?

      • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:41 PM

        I’m pretty sure that you’re mad right now.

  7. billsfanaddict - Feb 13, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    hmm, no LeBron, you are wrong sir… b/c by the time you retire: 1) KD will be at the end of his prime 2) the “titles race” between you two will be much closer 3) the nba will likely have 1 or 2 more ‘generational’-type athletes 4) one of them [like you and like kobe] will be more boorish & attention-obsessed than he is

  8. djshnooks - Feb 13, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Basketball has the most identifiable stars?

    Wow, that is the most hilarious thing I think I have heard since the new year began.

    There are more NFL quarterbacks who are more identifiable than basketball players…not mentioning all the other players who are stars at other positions.

    Baseball is probably higher too…and as USA hockey gets much stronger…the sport of hockey is growing faster than basketball.

    But there is no way, in any world or lifetime, that basketball and it’s “stars” would even be able to come remotely close to football.

    And at one point, as a kid in the 80’s/90’s (I’m 31), basketball WAS my favorite sport. Even college basketball is better than NBA.

    There is no surprise in basketball. It’s always the same players, same teams. Not to mention David Stern is probably the worst commission in all of sports, ever.

    • miamatt - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:00 PM

      Did you actually say that hockey is growing faster than basketball? I think you lost us all right there.

      The NBA is in the midst of a TV ratings-palooza that has been going on for several years, and you talk like it is a dying sport. Well said.

    • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:07 PM

      The helmets in the NFL are a barrier that prevents people from recognizing most NFL faces. Even the more popular players still have to wear their jerseys in commercials just so people know who they are and what they do – either that or they have to flash their name on the screen.

      Even in Peyton Manning’s newer Papa John’s commercials – they make sure he’s wearing a name tag with a big PEYTON on it. In Peyton’s first Papa John’s commercial he was wearing his jersey (without it you might think he’s an accountant). Papa John’s is not confident that everyone will automatically recognize Peyton Manning.

      Watch LeBron’s Beats Audio commercial or his newest Samsung commercial – no jersey, no name called out or displayed anywhere at the front (as is typically with NFL players). Samsung and Beats are confident that people who see the commercial will know who it is.

      • bucrightoff - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:19 PM

        Look I know you’re on your knees for LeBron 24/7, but come on. Peyton Manning is more well known, and more liked, than LeBron. Not even close. There won’t be 110 million people who will watch the NBA combined this season, or you know, the number that watched Peyton Manning choke another big game.

      • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:31 PM

        It’s not about who is more liked, etc – that’s irrelevant. It’s just the simple reality that a basketball player’s face is not covered – ever – while a football player’s face is obscured by a helmet for the majority of the time they’re on television.

        A marketing agency considers this – they likely have data backing up their decision to call out Manning’s name or to have him wear a jersey.

        I think, perhaps – or maybe obviously – that Peyton Manning’s name is more recognizable than his face.

      • spthegr8 - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        @Anti
        SLUUUUUUUUURP!!!!!

      • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:35 PM

        How is this even “slurping” LeBron? What do you think I’m talking about here?

        You have a problem with me talking about marketing realities? The fact that NFL players wear helmets and this makes advertisers a little cautious about they handle them in commercials. This upsets you?

      • bucrightoff - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:36 PM

        What do LeBron’s nuts taste like Anti? Salty? A little dry? Rough around the edges?

      • spthegr8 - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:01 PM

        @Buc
        One thing is for sure Bucrightoff. They aren’t Dry. He takes care of that personally on this site. EVERYDAY!!!

      • spthegr8 - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:07 PM

        @Anti
        It’s SLUUUUUUUUURPING cuz everything you say about him is just over the top MAN LOVE!!! I’ve said it once & I’ll say it again. Seek help buddy. ALOT of professional help!

      • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 8:40 PM

        You’re much more obsessed with following me around online.

        Nothing I say about LeBron is anywhere near being “over the top.” They’re all just facts. You’re just a hater – likely a Kobe Bryant fan, which is why it upsets you so much.

      • spthegr8 - Feb 13, 2014 at 8:55 PM

        Anti- I’m just stating facts the same way @Buc was! You are obsessed with LeBron & everybody on the site knows it & keeps calling you out on it. I think I’ve hurt your fragile little feelings. I’m sorry….

      • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:01 PM

        Ha. I’m immune to criticism. Anything said on here in regards to that I’ve already heard 50,000 times over the last 10 years. My only objective here is basketball truth – it is often forgotten so I have to keep repeating it. Sometimes it hurts people’s feelings – especially those of Kobetards.

      • spthegr8 - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:15 PM

        It’s wrong for me to call you out your BS and pick on you. Your the sites resident mental. You can’t help yourself. When your not swing from LeBrons Nuts your not a bad guy. If you could just give it a rest sometimes!!

      • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:12 PM

        The only way for you to improve your condition is to get to the source of why praise of LeBron bothers you so much. You appear to be too emotionally attached to Kobe Bryant – even to the point where you actually beg LeBron’s fans to stop talking about LeBron. Bizarre.

        But, look, praise of any player doesn’t make anyone a “bad guy” – I’m a great guy no matter what I’m doing. I’m good looking as well… which, upon learning that, probably ruined your day, so I apologize.

      • spthegr8 - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:39 PM

        I’m actually concerned for LeBron. If you don’t get the help you oh so desperately need. He may be kidnapped one day by a self proclaimed “good looking “, love struck, Mental, Internet “Troll”. & your good looking cuz your mom says so, right..????

      • antistratfordian - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:53 PM

        Hah! Now you’re all mad over the fact that I’m a handsome man – you can’t stop talking about it. It’s probably going to bother you for a while. Again, I apologize… that was not my intent.

      • spthegr8 - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:16 AM

        You seriously are Mental. Hope you have good insurance!! Admitting you have a problem is the first step in the LONG, LONG,LONG,LONG, LONG, road to recovery for you!! Just Sayin’!!! I’m pulling for you, I just hope it’s not to Late for you. Your like Stan. Remember that song eminem made back in like 2000. LeBron is being stalked & ” He ain’t even know it”!!!

      • antistratfordian - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:30 AM

        No. Boring. You’re going to have to do better than that.

      • therooneyskilledwebster - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:01 AM

        Anti thinks Anti belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of handsome men, just ask him.

      • antistratfordian - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:15 AM

        Let’s not get carried away now.

      • bucrightoff - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:17 AM

        I gotta give Anti credit, he’s actually a really good troll. He knows how to be subtle unlike most trolls. Sometimes he slips up and becomes totally obvious, but no one is perfect. Definitely could end up on the Mt. Rushmore of trolls.

  9. timcast12 - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Lol @ heat fans

    • pantsfreezone - Feb 13, 2014 at 8:58 PM

      I like how moronic commenters like you can’t write out “Laughing at”.

      Go back to serving burgers.

  10. vikesdynasty - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    Lebron back at his toolbox ways.

  11. provguard - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:57 PM

    Just go away LeBron… What brought on this ego trip?

  12. pfic15 - Feb 13, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    Durant is getting his ring THIS year.

    • pantsfreezone - Feb 13, 2014 at 8:54 PM

      No.

  13. ProBasketballPundit - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    So we’ve all recently learned lessons about counting the old guys out with San Antonio and Boston competing well past what we expected. But we’re already counting Miami out? What a joke.

    • miamatt - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:47 PM

      Take a bow, good sir.

  14. tomtravis76 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    To be the man you have to beat the man. .. right now , 1-0 LeBron in head to head finals. LeBron showed up last season , KD got lost on his way to the party.

  15. bbk1000 - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:52 AM

    LeBron James….he who couldn’t win without a stacked deck…..a complete joke…

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - Feb 14, 2014 at 5:33 AM

      So far, this thread js making LeBron’s point quite nicely.

  16. loungefly74 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    the pressure is building up every year KD doesnt win a title. no doubt about that.

  17. antistratfordian - Feb 23, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    A statistical projection developed by John Hollinger pegs the Oklahoma City Thunder as this season’s most likely NBA champions. So does Kevin Pelton’s formula.

    And 10 days later Hollinger’s projection now pegs the Heat as the season’s most likely champions at 18.3%, compared to OKC at 17.9%.

  18. durantk35 - Mar 29, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    This season Kevin Durant is averaging 32.2 points, on 51% from the field as well as 41% from the arc and 87% from the line. He is doing this in 39 minutes of play while also contributing 7.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists. That is just for offense. Defensively he is picking up 1.3 steals and nearly a block a game. I am not arguing that Kevin Durant is better than Lebron James, but Lebron is in his prime and Kevin Durant is still a young player. This season Durant deserves MVP solely for leading his team to the 2nd best record in the league without Russell Westbrook. That alongside his incredible stats, he should be a clearcut choice.

  19. savvybynature - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    So you guys don’t have the spine to publish thoughtful criticism like this, but allow black athletes to be referred to as monkeys and other such disgusting drivel in your comments section?
    If you want to work in a public forum like journalism, you should get over yourself and be open to criticism. Just my two cents.

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