Kevin Durant is tired of finishing second.
You wouldn't know it from his often jovial demeanor or warm smiles (even his technicals are pleasant), but Durant isn't satisfied with where he is now. All we need do is take a gander at the latest cover of Sports Illustrated to know that.
The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar receives plenty of recognition and praise for what he can do, but there's always someone ahead him. LeBron James, the Miami Heat and even Greg Oden have always been in front of him.
And he's done with it.
Speaking with Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, Durant said that he wants to finish on top for a change:
I’ve been second my whole life. I was the second best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.
Never mind that Durant has finished first in scoring three times or that the Thunder finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference. That's not enough.
For all Durant has done, he's never been on top. Actually on top.
The Thunder had the best regular-season record in the West but finished with the second-best record in the NBA. They were Western Conference champions only last season but fell to the Heat in the finals. He had an epic 2012-13 campaign, but LeBron's was better.
Now, Durant is ready for his turn.
He will (likely) finish second in MVP voting for a third time, and his statistical heroics are once again eclipsed by those of someone else, specifically LeBron—which has to be infuriating.
It has happened far too often for the Durantula's liking. He's played some of the greatest basketball we've ever seen, yet it's never been good enough for first place.
Oklahoma City's wunderkind is one of the best players of his generation, but he's not the best. LeBron is. Just like it is LeBron who has won the MVP award three times to Durant's two second-place finishes.
LeBron is the one with the ring, a piece of jewelry that came at Durant's expense.
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And it's LeBron who has cast a shadow over Durant's illustrious career. He's always been one step ahead, one accomplishment further along than his friend.
Will Durant ever be able to free himself from the confines of LeBron's overbearing reputation? We don't know. But he'll try.
"I’m not taking it easy on [LeBron]," Durant said. "Don’t you know I’m trying to destroy the guy every time I go on the court?"
We do now.
We also know that he's tired—exhausted from living in the darkness LeBron projects over the rest of the league. Not the feeble type of exhausted, but the angry type.
The kind that will continue to fuel Durant's fire until he escapes the shackles that come with being second-best.