Kevin Durant and LeBron James have matched up in each of the last two NBA Finals. Durant's team is 7-1 in those games, and the Warriors are one win away from closing out two straight championship series over LeBron and the Cavs. Golden State's dominance has sparked a debate whether KD has taken the title of the NBA's best player from LeBron. I believe LeBron is clearly on a different plane than Durant, and I'll lay out my argument by analyzing each of their games in five categories.


Those who argue that KD has become a superior player to LeBron claim that Durant is a more pure scorer than James.

But LeBron has averaged 0.1 more points than KD over their regular season careers, and their playoff scoring averages are equal at 28.9 points per game.

LeBron's career scoring totals are also deflated a bit due to playing from 2003-07, which was a much less offense-friendly NBA than it has been during the entirety of Durant's career.

Kevin Durant's outside shooting ability has allowed him to score a bit more efficiently with a better career true shooting percentage than LeBron. However, LeBron has improved his three-point shooting over the second half of his career to close the gap in that category.

I would concede that KD is slightly better as a pure scorer than LeBron, but that is the only edge Durant has over King James.


Passing is an aspect of the game where LeBron blows Durant out of the water.

LeBron's career-low in assists per game is 5.9 during his rookie year. Kevin Durant's career-high in assists per game is 5.5.

One could argue that LeBron controls the ball more than KD, which gives him more opportunities to dish out assists. However, James' career usage percentage is only 1.2 percent higher than Durant's.

It doesn't take much time to determine that LeBron's passing ability is clearly superior to KD's. A better argument would be whether LeBron is the greatest passer in NBA history.


Durant is taller than LeBron, which should give him an advantage in the rebounding category, but James has grabbed 7.4 rebounds over his career compared to KD's 7.1.

One would think LeBron's rebounding rate would slow down as he ages, but he's averaged 8.6 rebounds in each of the last two seasons. Durant's career high is 8.3 rebounds per game.

Rebounding is another aspect of the game that is in LeBron's favor.


Kevin Durant has been a superior shot-blocker throughout his career due to his incredible length. But LeBron has averaged 0.4 more steals per game than KD over their careers, which makes those two stats essentially cancel each other out.

LeBron's defense has certainly taken a step back as he has gotten older, but he is still a superior defender to Durant.

Defense is a difficult aspect of the game to quantify, but I think ESPN's defensive real plus-minus is the best statistic for measuring a player's defensive impact, in my opinion.

KD had one of the best defensive seasons of his career this year, but he still finished behind LeBron in defensive real plus-minus this year. LeBron has been better than Durant in that metric every year since ESPN began tracking that stat in 2013, and that doesn't even include many of James' best defensive seasons.

Another category clearly in favor of LeBron.

Advanced Statistics

Player efficiency rating is a solid metric for determining the offensive impact a player has considering every aspect of their offensive game. LeBron's career player efficiency rating of 28.6 is 2.6 points better than Durant's. James' player efficiency rating during the 2017-18 regular season was 2.4 points better than KD's, and his player efficiency rating from this postseason of 32.9 is 8.0 points better than Durant's.

ESPN's real plus-minus, considering both offense and defense, is the best statistic for measuring a player's total impact on the game (in my opinion), and LeBron has been better in that metric in every season since ESPN began tracking that metric in 2013. James has finished the year at the top of the league in that stat in three of the past five seasons, including the year KD won the MVP award in 2013-14.

LeBron has contributed about 2.8 more win shares per season than Durant over their respective careers, and James' value over a replacement player has been four points better per year than KD's.

It's nearly impossible to find a reliable advanced statistic that favors Durant over LeBron.


There is no doubt that Kevin Durant is an outstanding player. He may be the second-best player in the league right now, and he will probably be a top-ten player of all-time when his career is over.

However, LeBron is a much more well-rounded player and is a closer comparison to Michael Jordan than Kevin Durant.

As I laid out in this article, KD may have a slight edge in scoring efficiency, but LeBron is a vastly superior passer, a better rebounder, a more impactful defender, and the advanced analytics clearly give an edge to James.

KD will likely have two championship victories over LeBron in the past two years, but the three other All-Stars on the Warriors' roster have had a lot to do with that.

Durant is still a long way from taking the crown from King James.