Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Can we all agree that LeBron James(notes) is the best player in the league? No, we can't? Fair enough. But let's just pretend like he is for the time being, even though it wouldn't really be pretending.

Anyways, if we're saying LeBron is the best player in the league, that means there's a battle for the next in line. And while it doesn't have the allure or cache of gunnin' for that No. 1 spot, it's still pretty intense.

A lot of people will say it's Kobe Bryant(notes). And there'd surely be votes for a healthy Chris Paul(notes). But according to Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, it's Kevin Durant(notes), and it's not even close.

Kobe in reality has been no better than the second-best player in the league for about 18 months now — LeBron James passed him somewhere back in '08. He still had a legit claim to Alpha Dog status coming in to this year because he'd just won a championship. But there's a big difference between being "in the conversation" for the top-dog status and being the third-best guy — and one who's getting older. And that's where he is, third, because Durant is suddenly poster-izing the whole league.

Could it be true? Has Kevin Durant really passed up Kobe Bryant in just his third year in the league? Durant scores more on higher shooting percentages while taking less shots. He's also a better rebounder. Not to mention, he's the biggest reason for the Thunder being a playoff team. That's a pretty strong case.

Of course, Kobe's biggest contributions don't always show up in the box score. He's been unstoppable in the clutch this year, and he's rededicated himself to defense. And he's done all this while remaining the main offensive force for the Western Conference's best team. Oh, and he has four championships. That's also a pretty strong case.

When asked about the article by Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, Kobe was deferential.

The "old Kobe" laughed when he was told about the comparison.

"It's an honor," was Kobe's first response. He then called it "entertaining."

"It's a huge honor. It shows a sign of respect for all the work I put in," Bryant said Monday.

Something tells me Kobe isn't too keen on letting Kevin Durant pass him by, and I'd imagine he's not going to agree that he's even fallen as far as No. 2. Nonetheless, the future's in good hands.

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