On Monday night at Oracle Arena, Kevin Durant proved he is not just a match winner but a true champion as well. Golden State Warriors defeated Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the finals, and Durant owned the game. Right from the word go, he showed his class and totaled a neat 39 points in the game. Scoring at least 30 points in every game of the finals, Durant was the unanimous choice for MVP. This record rightly puts him in the company of game’s greats like Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O’ Neal. And rightly so! Kevin is a superstar in his own right.
From his humble Seat Pleasant origins to being crowned the finals MVP, Kevin Durant has indeed come a long way. Today, Durant is recognized as one of the greatest the game has ever seen. The success, however, was never easy to come by. Durant’s is a true story of dreaming big and working hard day in day out to realize those dreams.
Kevin Durant was born on September 29, 1988 in the town of Seat Pleasant, in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Even before his first birthday, Kevin’s father, Wayne Pratt, left the family. His mother, Wanda Pratt, single-handedly brought up both Kevin and his elder brother Tony.
Durant considers his mother his biggest inspiration. He credits his mother with everything he has achieved in life. He proudly declares himself to be a mamma’s boy. Wanda Pratt has been there at every step of Durant’s legendary journey.
Durant credits his mother who put him and his brother early into the sport. Durant’s love for the sport grew rapidly, and the values of hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance got instilled deep.
Kevin Durant was always a tall boy and that made him conscious and shy. At an age when every kid would try to fit in, Kevin’s height made him stand out. His mother and grandmother both told him that his height was an asset, something he would realize later in life. His 6’11 frame gives him an imposing presence on the court.
Remembering His Mother’s Sacrifices
Durant distinctly remembers the innumerable sacrifices his mother made for him and his brother. She is always home when they would come home from school. And, when the two are in bed, she would set out for her night-shift job at the post office. Her life revolved around providing them the best care and coaching at home, at school, and at the basketball court.
Durant witnessed his mother giving up all her dreams just so her two children could realize theirs. And that made Durant give his heart and soul in making her sacrifices worthwhile. In his own words, Durant recalls that long after his teammates would leave, he stayed on and did his drills till his muscles ached.
Kind and an angel at heart that she may be, his mother was an equally hard taskmaster. Durant remembers that late on weekends, she would ask Kevin to do sit-ups and push-ups. Any resistance and pat came the reply that to realize his dreams, doing extra yards was important.
While playing in college, his mother and AAU coach Taras “Stink” Brown developed a strict regimen for Durant. This was to ensure his natural skill at the game is further groomed into a force to reckon with. A typical summer day would have him sweating it out eight hours a day, practicing and honing his skills—the very skills that would make him a champion player.
Early Success and Roadblocks
Not relying merely on his natural superior basketball skills, Kevin Durant constantly strived to get better at the game. His hard work and sacrifices brought Durant recognition and he made it to the team in his freshman year. The senior guys in the team overlooked him all the time and simply refused to pass him the ball. Even when he was open! And this went on for quite some time. Durant felt humiliated and confessed to his mom that he cannot play with teammates who ridiculed and ill treated him. She, however, asked him to stay put until they recognize him. Durant heeded the advice and stuck it out until his fellow players passed the ball and compliments. His perseverance paying off, The Washington Post named Durant the area Player of the Year.
Discovering NBA isn’t a Cakewalk
Durant’s debut in the NBA was with Seattle Supersonics in 2007. They expected big things from him, and with Durant onboard, they finished one of their worst seasons ever. Durant was gutted, as he felt he had let the team down. Egged on by his mother, Durant promised he would make it work and turn it around for his team. A couple of years down the line, the team, now known as Oklahoma City Thunder made the playoffs for the first time. It was yet another triumph of the values of hard work and perseverance that paid off.
Handling Negative Criticism
While constantly climbing the ladder of success, Durant’s actions were under constant scrutiny. When he made a move from Oklahoma City Thunder to Golden Gate Warriors in 2016, Thunder fans blasted him. They castigated him, saying he is a coward who has sold out and other unmentionable expletives. He was hurt and couldn’t understand why was he getting all this hate. But, Durant quickly realized he is just wasting his own energy by lending an ear. He understood he can’t let all this affect him in any way. And what emerged from all the clutter was that nothing can come between him and basketball.
Earlier, Durant would respond to fans’ criticism on Twitter quite regularly, but he quickly realized that it’s needlessly draining his energy. As a result, he majorly cut down on his social-media time. Both Twitter and Instagram took the back seat. His creative side, however, still brought him regularly to YouTube—his favorite platform—to reach out to his fans. His YouTube channel, as of today, has 317K subscribers.
Warriors forward, David West, noticed Kevin’s gradual maturity in ignoring the useless noise. Durant stopped reacting to barbs from the stands and letting the criticism affect him in any way. He just focused on the game and the results followed with Warriors becoming champions in his first season with them.
Durant commands a huge respect from everyone not just because he is a great player but also because he is a great human being. While playing basketball the hard way, he has enormous respect for the game, fellow players, and former greats. He is a genuinely nice human being, and minus any ugly controversies, comes across as a great role model too.
The Spiritual Connection
It’s difficult to find a player so superlative at his game and yet grounded in humility. Durant’s mother has had a huge influence on him and will always remain that way. He recounts his deep faith in one of the Bible’s verses, “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” While Durant constantly works at improving his game, he also intends to grow spiritually. And with that, he wishes to become closer to God and be the person God wants him to be.
Durant’s road to success has been paved with great amount of hard work and perseverance. How are you striving? Sign up to be notified when the Strive book becomes available.