Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant has opened up about how the greats of the NBA fostered a sense of brotherhood among this generation, and how his desire to be the best fuelled a hidden 'beef' with Kobe Bryant.
Speaking on his podcast, The ETCs, Durant reflected on the legacy left by greats of the game such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, after Nets teammate James Harden surpassed Bird on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
'SPECIAL NIGHT': Caris LeVert makes NBA return after cancer shock
Though the likes of Johnson, Bird and Michael Jordan played in a fiercely competitive era of the league, Durant said the way that generation showed appreciation for one another's game throughout the twilight of their careers and afterwards had shaped the way players behave today.
Though Durant said he admired the way older players showed love for one another, that didn't stop his younger self from wanting to learn from their ruthless side as well.
And few players were more ruthless in their prime than the late Kobe Bryant.
“I felt like I had a beef with Kobe Bryant but he didn’t even know I had this beef — as you get older you look at these guys as just sharpening you and making you better," Durant said.
"When Bron goes to score 50 points or James Harden has 60 points, I’m looking at … how can I top it just to be better … how can I maintain that level I was on too — it’s a healthy competition.”
Durant has been sidelined for over a month after injuring his hamstring, with the Brooklyn Nets unwilling to rush the superstar forward back after his achilles injury in 2019 kept him from debuting for the team last year.
The Nets have continued to press for Eastern Conference favouritism in his absence, sitting second in the standings with a 26-13 record thanks to impressive play from Harden and Kyrie Irving.
Ben Simmons helps the Sixers slam the Spurs
Ben Simmons was back for the Philadelphia 76ers, so too were the fans, as the NBA's eastern conference leaders crushed the short-handed San Antonio Spurs 134-99.
Missing the the first two games after the All-Star break due to COVID-19 protocols, Simmons returned to the Sixers' line-up that put on a show for the limited crowd of 3071 that was back in the Wells Fargo Stands stands for the first time in 368 days.
Simmons had 14 points and nine assists in Philadelphia's biggest ever win over the Spurs.
The oft-maligned guard for his inability to shoot beyond 15 feet has a defender in San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
"It would enhance his game, obviously. That can't be argued with," Popovich said.
"He's so elite already, who gives a damn if he can't shoot."
Not that the 76ers needed Simmons to shoot much, as they dominated despite being without MVP favourite Joel Embiid.
The star centre - averaging a career high 29.9 points to go with 11.5 rebounds - is out for at least a fortnight with a bruised knee suffered in Friday's win at Washington.
Tobias Harris carried the bulk of the scoring load against the Spurs with 23 points while Seth Curry added 21.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.