Kevin Durant got it right.
If anyone reading this has not viewed the 25-year-old Oklahoma City forward’s NBA MVP acceptance speech, Google it immediately. It will not disappoint.
In a culture of self-adulation and promotion, it took Durant less than half an hour to prove humble superstars still exist.
Moved to tears on multiple occasions, the four-time scoring champion sincerely thanked everyone from his family to former teammates and coaches to critics to members of the Thunder organization to fans.
He singled out numerous current Thunder players as they sat onstage beside him and specifically told what each means to him both on and off the court.
He downplayed his talents, promoted hard work, admitted basketball is only a tool used for a greater good of inspiring others and displayed extreme gratitude to those who showed even a modicum of belief in him.
And his words were not hollow. They were not contrived, rehearsed or artificial.
It was true appreciation at its finest.
Durant’s genuine and heartfelt words captivated everyone in attendance, drawing tears to the eyes of his teammates and those in the crowd alike. In a moment all about him, he praised others; none more so than his mother, referring to her as the “real MVP.”
Durant recalled being born into a single-parent family and the financial struggles he, his mother Wanda Pratt and older brother endured as their lives shuffled from apartment to apartment in the Washington, D.C., area. “We weren’t supposed to be here,” he said. “You made us believe, you kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs and food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us.”
It was truly one of the greatest acceptance speeches in the history of sports, let alone the NBA.
At a time when athletes typically seek out the spotlight for themselves, Durant turned it on everyone around him.
By the end of his speech, it was almost hard to remember the press conference was intended to honor him, but it was, and if he’s not going to toot his own horn, then I will.
Durant received 119 of 125 first-place votes after averaging 32.0 points while shooting 56 percent from the floor to go with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. His streak of 41 consecutive games with at least 25 points is the third-longest streak in NBA history, and he became the first player to win the MVP and the scoring title in the same season since Allen Iverson in 2001.
He topped the 40-point plateau 14 times, scored a career-high 54 points in a win against Golden State and guided the Thunder to the second-best record in the league (59-23) even though All-Star sidekick Russell Westbrook missed 36 games during the regular season.
Durant’s season was one of the most memorable in recent history, but it pales in comparison to his acceptance speech.
Although he has numerous nicknames, like The Durantula, KD, K-Smoove or my personal favorite, The Slim Reaper, I prefer referring to him as a Longhorn.
I was attending the University of Texas when Durant was a freshman phenom for the Longhorns, and it was clear big things were in his future. I knew he would go on to be a superstar, but I never expected he would grow into an ultimate ambassador for the league.
On Tuesday, however, he humbly assumed the role, and within the span of his acceptance speech, Durant proved he is the epitome of class along with being king of the court.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org