HOUSTON -- Kevin Durant wanted to set the record straight once and for all about his relationship with LeBron James.
"I hate him," he said before breaking into laughter.
Then he got serious.
"We’re actually really good friends," he continued. "I think people want us to hate each other so bad just because we’re battling against each other."
That doesn’t mean he has any good feelings toward him when they pair face each other.
"I like the friendly competition, but when we’re on the court we’re the furthest thing away from being friends," he said. "We don’t take it easy on each other."
That much was never more evident than when the two competed in last year’s NBA Finals, which the Heat won in five games. James led his team in scoring in each game, and Durant paced the Thunder in all but Game 4.
Soon after that, the two met up once again to play for the U.S. in the Olympics in London.
"He’s going to go down as one of the best of all time," Durant said about James. "I don’t think anyone will be like LeBron James. I’m glad I get a chance to compete against him year in and year out, and I’m also glad I was on his team to win the gold medal."
James and the Heat beat Durant’s Thunder 110-100 on Thursday night. James entered the game having scored 30 points with 60 percent shooting in an NBA-record six straight games.
James had 39 points in that game, but the Thunder took some solace in keeping him below 60 percent shooting.
James said his relationship with Durant doesn’t affect the competition at all.
"People always want to talk about the friendship me and KD have. It’s a new era," James said. "It starts with how long we’ve been competing against one another since we were kids. You don’t have to hate somebody to compete against somebody. People get that twisted. Did you watch the game last night? It wasn’t friendly at all. We’re competing, but we respect each other.
"Before me and D-Wade came together, everyone remembers the battles me and D-Wade had. But our friendship was one of the best we had, too. People just don’t have anything to talk about, so they want to try to make a story."
When Heat star Dwyane Wade was putting together an ensemble that included super skinny jeans before meeting the media for the All-Star game, he failed to realize that he’d have to climb a riser of about three feet to get to the podium.
He was finally able to gingerly hoist himself up to the podium to face the throng of reporters.
Fittingly, the first question was about his style. Wearing a white Moschino button down shirt, a blazer and Gucci glasses, he said he doesn’t take his cues on dressing from anyone, preferring to cultivate an individual style.
But he does appreciate the wardrobe choices of some of his fellow players.
"Tyson Chandler’s a very good dresser," Wade said of about the Knicks’ player. "That’s somebody that I look at and I like some of the things he wears. There’s a couple of guys that I look at and I think: ‘Hey, I like their style,’ and see what they’re doing."
James has never competed in the slam-dunk contest on All-Star Weekend. Asked Friday if he ever will, James said he thinks his window of opportunity may have passed.
He’s only 28, but playing his 10th NBA season.
"I’m getting older," he said. "It ain’t looking good."
Dwight Howard, who competed multiple times and won a dunk contest, had another theory for why some players won’t give it a try.
"I think for us, the reason why a lot of us don’t participate is because we do so much during All-Star weekend, by the time we get to the dunk contest we have no legs," he said. "When you do the dunk contest, you want to have your legs, you want to be ready to go because you want to put on a good show for our fans. So I think some guys, I think they don’t want to get embarrassed in the dunk contest, so they just choose not to do it."
Back in the day, Gary Payton relished the opportunity to guard Michael Jordan.
Payton was selected as a finalist for election to the Hall of Fame on Friday, kicking off All-Star Weekend in Houston. Jordan, meanwhile, turns 50 on Sunday, and the league is planning a tribute.
Payton’s Seattle team faced Jordan’s Chicago squad in the 1996 NBA Finals, after the Bulls had rolled to a league-record 72 wins in the regular season. The Bulls stormed to a 3-0 lead in the series, but the Sonics won the next two games.
Payton, known as "The Glove" for his defensive ability, guarded Scottie Pippen early in the series. Seattle coach George Karl put Payton on Jordan in Game 3.
Jordan had 22 points and seven assists in Game 6 and the Bulls won their fourth championship. While Jordan won their championship matchup, Payton said when it came to trash talking, Jordan was no match for him.
"Mike didn’t really talk any trash," Payton said. "The only guy who can probably get close to me is probably Larry Bird. And Reggie Miller. They’re the only ones who can come close to me, and I think I’m No. 1."