It’s crazy to think that LeBron James and Kevin Durant, two of the greatest players in NBA history, went five years without squaring off in the regular season. Notably, the crazier part about that is that the younger player (Durant) was the one who missed most of those matchups because of injuries.

That speaks volumes of James’ unmatched durability in this league. He’s entering his 21st season playing at the highest level, and he continues to be an elite player just a couple of months before turning 39 years of age.

That’s why even his lifelong rivals, such as Durant, can’t help but be inspired by him. They’ve literally watched him dominate the league for two decades straight, which is something no other player has ever managed to do.

With that in mind, the two-time NBA champion tipped his hat to LeBron. Following the Los Angeles Lakers‘ win over the undermanned Phoenix Suns, Durant talked about how much LeBron’s presence has inspired him throughout the years.

Kevin Durant Praises LeBron James

“When I was in high school, we got close when I was a senior in high school and he was third or fourth year in the league, and he was dominating and somebody that inspired me as I was coming into college, into the league to want to play at that level,” Durant said postgame.

Durant also admitted that it’s not just the fans the ones who measure him compared to LeBron. He also looks up to him and tries to emulate what he has accomplished in this league:

Somebody you just compare yourself to, and if you can accomplish and achieve some of the stuff that he’s done that means you’re doing pretty solid for yourself,” added Durant. “He’s just a baseline for you as a player to see how great you can be. He set that example for everybody in the league.”

Durant Was In Awe Of James’ IQ

You have to be efficient if you want to be in the league for a long time. And a big part of being efficient is knowing your rival, his flaws, his tendencies, and how to make the most of those to get an edge. Needless to say, Durant knows that’s one of LeBron’s biggest strengths:

“He was pretty much coaching the team on how to guard certain actions, and that’s what he’s been doing his whole career,” Durant said. “Film study is one of the things that he’s locked in on as he’s gotten older as a player. As he’s won championships, he’s learned how to watch film and dissect the film and you can just see that and hear that in his talk throughout the whole game. It’s always a battle playing against high IQ players like that.”

That’s the ultimate compliment coming from a guy he’s faced in the NBA Finals three times throughout the course of their career. And while Durant could have bragging rights thanks to that 2-1 record against him, James has perhaps the most accomplished résumé in the history of this game.

Unfortunately, neither of these legends is getting any younger, and we’re rapidly approaching the end of an era. At least they know it and respect each other, and even his haters should do the same, as we won’t get to watch them dominate for much longer.

SURVEY Who\'s the better player?

Who\'s the better player?