The apocryphal story of China’s Chairman Mao Zedong on his deathbed in 1976 being asked about the long-term effects of the 18th-century French Revolution and replying, “Too early to tell.” sums up this season’s NBA Most Valuable Player race – and indeed, quite probably the race for the next few years – quite nicely.
And make no mistake; it is indeed a race, albeit with just two protagonists.
On one hand you have LeBron James, the putative Dauphin of the NBA; in the other, Oklahoma City’s enfant prodige Kevin Durant and MVP la course en tete.
It is testament to James’s understated brilliance that Commissioner David Stern will not be handing over the Maurice Podoloff trophy to Durant at half-time of the All-Star game this week; such has been the Thunder star’s dominance thus far.
On pace for an historic season, the word most associated with Durant this season has been, as the French in their world-weary way would say, inhumain.
For those unfamiliar, Durant is knocking on the door – some might say breaking it down with explosives – of a very exclusive club.
There are just five members of the 50/40/90 club – averaging 50% FG, 40% 3FG, 90% FT and meeting league minimum requirements – in NBA history: Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (four times) and Dirk Nowitzki.
Durant is presently averaging 29.6 points per game while hitting 51.7% from the floor, 41.7% from international waters and 91.2% from the charity stripe, all while providing nightly highlights of jaw-dropping athleticism.
And while his rebounding and assist numbers – 7.4 and 4.4 respectively – are perfectly respectable, they pale into comparison with the genie athletique of Miami’s own Sun King.
We take James for granted these days, his season averages of 26.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game barely cause a ripple, such has his expansive repertoire become almost passé.
In any other season, from any other player, those kinds of numbers would be drawing rave reviews from coast to coast and on a global scale.
He’s on track for career highs in rebounds and assists, and although his scoring remains on pace to be his lowest since his rookie campaign of 2003-04, his field goal and three-point percentages are also at career-best levels.
But perhaps what is more impressive is that he’s doing it an efficient level not seen since his sophomore season in Cleveland, with a USG% rate of 30 and a turnover rate of 11.6, way down on last year’s 13.3.
The stellar duo has left all pretenders to the throne in their wake. New York’s Carmelo Anthony has – for the most part – harnessed his amazing talents this year and will finish either third or fourth in the race, depending on how you view Chris Paul’s tremendous impact on the previously moribund Los Angeles Clippers.
But all that is secondary to the battle between James and Durant. One chasing the opening chapter of a long-term supremacy, the other’s quiet brilliance ensuring the league’s le roi regnant has not yet been usurped.
In the end, it will be up to Durant to storm his own private Bastille and deliver the coup d’état. There is time enough.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.