NEW ORLEANS — When LeBron James said recently he wished he could get as many shots in a game as the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, you knew it wasn't jealousy, really, but a dig at his main competition for the NBA MVP Award.
It was also something the Miami Heat's Mr. Everything probably likes to use as motivation.
Pro athletes, who get paid large sums of money to play games, use just about anything for an edge. James keeps his eye on Durant's numbers — and everything else. He posted on Instagram when New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points recently, praising the Knicks franchise record.
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And, even though he wasn't in that game against Anthony, the accomplishment stuck out in his mind as something he wants to do.
"As a competitor and as a basketball player you can't wait for your next game to see if you may have one of those hot hands or one of those zones," James said.
If anyone can score like that, it's James. But the list of other guys who could doesn't end there.
"Every year, the NBA gets a little bit better, I mean a lot better," Anthony said. "It's more intense, more energetic."
In a radio interview Friday, Durant said that it isn't only about James and him but that the league is loaded with good players, noting that there are a lot of guys who don't get the recognition for how good they are.
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That has played out, especially in the Western Conference, where even making the roster for Sunday's All-Star Game (8 p.m. ET, TNT) was a battle. Durant, James and everyone else who was asked talked about how much of a thrill these showcases are for them. And while winning serves as the main motivator, as they all repeat, that isn't the full truth. Personal competition comes into play, as well.
It's a difficult team to make, what with 12 roster spots in each conference, so even guys with good numbers get left out.
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 22.5 points and 11.7 rebounds a game, but he didn't make the All-Star Game in part because of his team's struggles. When he wasn't selected as injured Kobe Bryant's replacement (New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis was), Cousins tweeted that it was politics.
And Washington Wizards All-Star John Wall, Cousins' teammate at Kentucky, says he will use that as motivation.
"Yeah, he's like me," Wall said. "He uses a lot of stuff as motivation. It's probably something that he's dealt with most of his career, but I think he's done a great job of playing this season. It didn't work out for him to be an All-Star, but he's still got a lot of games left that he can finish and try to make his team better."
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