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Christmas Day Matchup: The next chapter in the LeBron vs. Durant rivalry

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This time around there is no Kyrie Irving or Stephen Curry.

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors on Christmas day has been a wonderful tradition dating back to 2013. Don’t ever forget how special this is after having to watch Kobe Bryant on Christmas day for over a decade. For the third year in a row, the Warriors and Cavaliers will matchup for a Christmas day showdown.

In case we need a reminder of last year’s Christmas day game. Here is Tamryn’s piece on the borderline criminal officiating that took place: Ineptitude, inconsistency and organized crime: NBA officiating cannot be trusted

This is the first time the two teams are squaring off since last season’s NBA Finals. The Warriors and Cavaliers have built quite the rivalry over the last several years and although many players like to play down the rivalry, this game means something.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant rekindle rivalry

When Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in the 2016 off-season, he added a new layer to the Cavs and Warriors rivalry and to his personal rivalry with LeBron James. Durant and and James have been in the top five and at times the top two best players in NBA for the last decade. James has dominated that battle having won three championships, collecting four MVP awards, and getting to the Finals seven straight years.

Last year Durant finally got his chance to one up James when he captured his first NBA title against the man he’s been chasing for the last decade. On top of that he collected the Finals MVP, validating his dominant performance in that series.

James and Durant first faced off in the NBA Finals back in 2012 when the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder four games to one with James capturing the Finals MVP and his first NBA title. It’s a bit poetic that they each collected their first career titles against each other in their quests with new teams.

The shot heard around the world

If you need to refresh your memory on how important this rivalry is between LeBron James and Kevin Durant, here is a three and half minute video compilation of Durant hitting his game winning three over James ten times over seven languages.

My personal favorites were: the Italian announcer from Sky sport, Arabic announcer from BeIN Sports, and Spanish announcer from MoviStar+. It is just as sweet no matter what language the play is called in.

The Cavaliers fans will always have the the James “block” over Andre Iguodala, but Warriors fans will forever have this Durant dagger three over James.

No Kyrie Irving or Stephen Curry in this showdown

With Irving now in Boston and Curry sidelined with an ankle injury, this game will look awfully different without the star point guards dueling. Nevertheless, we should be in for a treat with arguably the top two players in the league going head to head(I said arguably, don’t kill me for this).

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors
Who will take over when the game is on the line?
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

While Curry has been out, Durant has been playing at an MVP level on both sides of the ball, averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.9 blocks in the last eight games. Meanwhile, James has been stating his claim for MVP, having full reigns over the offense. James has averaged an unworldly 28 points, 9.2 assists, 8.4 rebounds while posting a 65.7% true-shooting percentage (best % of his career)

The current alphas of each of their respective offenses will go shot for shot. Deep down inside both want to win and want to state their claim as superior. The best want to beat the best and no matter regular season or post season, pride is on the line.

I’m predicting that this one is going to be highly competitive and will come down to the final minutes. Durant puts up the game winning shot and gets redemption over the botched play from last year’s Christmas day ending.

Another epic duel between two of the best players of their generation. Sit back and enjoy another Christmas Day feast!

All stats per: basketball-reference.com