Miami Heat foward LeBron James often looks for challenges on the basketball court.

At times, it can get a little boring when everyone considers him the game's best player. It's been that way generally the past five seasons, with James winning four regular-season most valuable player awards.

It has almost become a bore in late May when the honor is announced because it has had the suspense of a television rerun.

But no more.

James is receiving his strongest competition this season from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. The league's top two players square off Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena in the first of two meetings. An 11-game stretch of 30-point games has Durant atop the MVP ballots, a sign that he has closed the gap between No. 1 and No. 2.

"Durant is having an unbelievable year.," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "Obviously it's going to be one of those things that goes down to the end with both guys. It's special to see two guys at the top of their games. KD is reaching his prime. LeBron is in his prime."

James spent Tuesday downplaying the matchup. He offered nothing but praise for Durant but refused to make a postseason award the focal point of the game. With plenty of hardware in his trophy case, James would rather collect another title in June.

"It doesn't rank too much," James said. "It's a good accomplishment. I thank my teammates every time I get an opportunity to be a part of that. Like I've said, I love being the MVP of our team."

Durant is averaging a career-high 31.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists. His month of January has been one of the best in NBA history. The Thunder have won eight straight despite All-Star guard Russell Westbrook being sidelined with a knee injury. With Wade ailing of late and Heat center Chris Bosh forever in the shadows, it leaves the spotlight on Durant and James.