James has counseled Durant on many occasions
NBA Finals pits friends against each other
For Heat forward LeBron James, this NBA Finals meeting with Thunder forward Kevin Durant has practically seemed inevitable, based on their friendship and their standing in the league.
"Our relationship has been growing since he was in high school, all the way through Texas and all his years in the NBA," James said of taking Durant under his wing before the Thunder, behind Durant's 36 points, won Tuesday night's opening game of the NBA Finals 105-94.
Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday.
"For me, I understood what the situation he was getting himself into being drafted as high as he was, and the things that came with being drafted to a team that needed a marquee player or a superstar."
James said he felt it only right to assist the way veterans had assisted him during his climb.
"You know, from day one, I always lent my hand out to guide him if he needed it, to help him, to mentor him if he needed it through anything, and that's on and off the floor, because to that point I've seen everything, and I'm still learning but I've seen everything on and off the floor," James said.
From there, a bond was forged.
"Our relationship is really good," James said. "Our relationship is going to continue to grow, and I'm happy to be in this position where I can compete against him."
As for bragging rights, James said those will take care of themselves.
"I don't really get involved in the (talk about who's the) best player in the game," James said. "It doesn't matter to me, really. When I go out on the basketball court each and every night, I want to be the best player in the game. I want to be the best player on that floor, and that's just how I approach the game."
James said there is a natural evolution in the game that takes care of itself.
"So I don't really care what people say at the end of this series, if K.D. or LeBron is the best player in the league," he said. "It has to happen at some point anyways. I won't be the best player in the league, K.D. will be, and then K.D. won't be the best player in the league at some point. It happens all the time.
"It doesn't really matter, so I don't care."
Although the two came together more often than not in Game 1, James actually opened defensively on Kendrick Perkins, and Shane Battier drew the defensive assignment of trying to stop Durant. Durant, by contrast, was the primary defender on James when Durant was on the court.