Before they blossomed into the two best players preparing to do battle on the game's biggest stage, Kevin Durant and LeBron James were just buds with a basketball bond, a relationship that always has been heavily skewed more toward friendly than rivalry.

It dates to Durant's high-school days, when he was a top-ranked prospect navigating his way from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., to a basketball scholarship at Texas and on to the NBA as the eventual No. 2 selection in the 2007 NBA Draft.

"I understood 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 superstar," James said Monday. "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."

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Legacies are now on the line.