I’ve been covering sports in Oklahoma for 40 years now. And I know I’ve *never* heard a more heartfelt acceptance speech here than the one delivered by the NBA’s new “Most Valuable Player” on Tuesday. Thunder superstar Kevin Durant guaranteed his induction into our state’s impressive sports Hall of Fame with words felt around the planet and squarely aimed at the place KD currently plays and resides, OUR state.
It was more than the traditional “thanks alot, appreciate the support” drivel we’ve heard countless times before. This was a quiet, normally reserved 25-year old superstar who completely opened his heart and his tear ducts to express his love of family, friends, teamates, the organization and yes…good ‘ole Oklahoma. This from a kid who has somehow managed to get an entire state to wrap their arms tightly around him even though he played collegiately at (gulp) TEXAS of all places. Yep, if you didn’t believe before Tuesday, believe it now…”we love this Longhorn!”. And the hundreds of season ticket holders and regular fans who showed up at the Thunder Community Center to help celebrate with Durant are just as genuine in their support for the player and his talented team, as Kevin is for them.
Everything was unscripted and Durant’s remarks were “off the cuff”. But too many times he said the RIGHT things, about how OKC is the “perfect place for him” and how he just wants to “shine a light on others” when trying to lead by example and help out the community. No one forced him to pledge $1-million for tornado relief in Moore last spring – just like no one told him to show up in-person to lift the spirits of those so devasted either. It’s becoming more and more evident…Kevin Durant is REAL. Nothing phony about his persona or his ability to shoot a ball thru a basket.
But the more success Durant enjoys, the more NBA people expect him to bolt for the bright lights of L.A., New York or Miami when his Thunder contract runs out in a couple of years. Will KD do to OKC like LeBron did to Cleveland with “The Decision”? It absolutely could happen but, this superstar appears to be different. He seems to have a small market spirit even though he’s a guy from the shadows of our nation’s capitol Washington, D.C. He has *always* insisted he likes Oklahoma alot, he likes the lifestyle, the pace, the people and the players.
Surely KD will command oodles of cash when it comes time to sign his next contract. But Clay Bennett cut his ownership teeth helping out the San Antonio Spurs win a quartet of NBA titles in that Texas town. Sam Presti grew up in the same Spurs organization too – and he’s now known as a pro basketball “guru” in the way he evaluates and negotiates. And regardless of what you think about head coach Scott Brooks, I heard the same thing you heard on Tuesday: his superstar player LOVES the coach and Brooks’ family. I got the impression this may very well have been the FIRST time Durant had expressed his deep personal feelings toward all those people around him. And KD had everyone’s undivided attention.
There will come a time during the season two years ahead, when Durant and Thunder management MUST talk about another long-term agreement to pay Kevin much more than the scheduled $21.2-million he’ll earn in the 2015-16 season. Based on the “love festival” I witnessed first-hand Tuesday, I fully expect the marriage of Kevin Durant and his adopted state to last into the twilight of his collossal career. This could include several more MVP trophies, and the one thing Durant dreams about daily: bringing an NBA Championship to Oklahoma. Sounds “perfect” to me too. #KDMVP