Sometimes it’s hard for players to make that early jump from college ball to the pros. They have to think about their careers, as well as their education, but sometimes a good enough season can convince them that their time to go is now, rather than waiting for later and seeing what the future holds. For Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, one year playing at the University of Texas was all it took for the future superstar to realize it was time for him to make the jump from the NCAA to the NBA as he was named the 2007 Big 12 Player of the Year, the Big 12 Tournament Most Valuable Player after scoring a tournament record 92 points and the 2007 National College Player of the Year.
Drafted 2nd overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics at the time, Durant was speculated to go first overall in the draft but was beaten out by Greg Oden as the Portland Trail Blazers took him with the first selection. Shortly after being drafted by the SuperSonics, Durant was offered contracts from both Adidas ($70 million) and Nike ($60 million) for seven years. As a lifetime supporter of Nike, Durant decided to sign with Nike over Adidas and was signed to the second highest endorsement contract as a rookie; only LeBron James ranks higher than Durant in that category.
In his first season in the NBA, Durant did nothing but impress the world. He was the NBA Western Conference Player of the Month for five months during the season, won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He became just the third teenager to average more than 20 points per game throughout a season and became the first player in NBA history to score 42 points at such a young age (19 years 200 days). His average of 20.3 points per game were good enough to help him set a new record amongst the SuperSonics organization as he broke a 40-year old record for most points per game throughout the season by a rookie.
By the end of the season, the SuperSonics knew that their time was up in Seattle as there was a lot of talk about the team relocating to Oklahoma City, especially after the city showed how welcoming they are to the NBA and having their own team after the Hornets temporarily relocated there from 2005-07 after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Now a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant did what was expected of him since draft day and that was becoming the new face of the organization. He represented the Sophomores in the Rookie/Sophomore T-Mobile Challenge where he took home MVP honors for setting a new record for points scored with 46. He was also asked to take place in the first ever H-O-R-S-E contest; beating out Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson and Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo in the event.
If his first two seasons in the NBA didn’t land Durant on the map of stardom, his third season without a doubt landed him on there. He led Oklahoma City to a 50-win season; won his second straight H-O-R-S-E competition; he coached the Rookies at the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge; was named to his first All-Star team and became the youngest player in NBA history to win the NBA Scoring Title. He finished second in votes behind LeBron James for MVP voting and posted 25 or more points in 29 straight games which was good enough for the second longest streak in league history. At the end of the season he was named to the 2010 All-NBA First Team along with fellow superstars LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Aside from all the honors and awards that came along with the 2009-10 season; Durant showed how mature he had become by helping the Thunder clinch a playoff spot in the heavily talented Western Conference. It was the first taste of the playoffs for both himself and the organization but it was just the beginning of what was and what is to come for the talented Thunder team.
Prior to this past season, Durant signed an extension with the Thunder that would make him roughly $86 million over the next five years with the team. He helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship where he was also named the Tournament MVP. He broke more records with USA as he recorded the most points in a tournament (205) and most points in a single game (38). He became the spokesperson for P’Tones Records; a non-profit after school music program in his native city of Washington, D.C. He helped P’Tones apply for the Pepsi Refresh Grant to receive a $250,000 grant so they could build studios across the United States and provide high school students with hands-on recording skills and insight into the music industry.
He had a holiday celebration for 120 kids in Oklahoma City during Christmas time courtesy of Citizens Caring for Children; which saw each of the kids enjoy a pizza party courtesy of Pizza Hut, games, hoops and face painting. Aside from the pizza party and events that took place, each child left the celebration with a Nike backpack that contained Kevin’s favourite things such as: an iPod Shuffle; iTunes gift card; Skullcandy headphones; and Nike gear. He also presented Citizens Caring for Children with a flat-screen television, a Nintendo Wii, an Xbox 360 and games for the facility’s activity room.
Another tradition for the Thunder, especially around the holidays, is to treat a family in need to groceries. The Thunder teamed up with Homeland Stores to treat a family selected from the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and/or the Salvation Army of Oklahoma to a grocery shopping spree. Durant took a 25-year old single woman who is the sole caretaker of her six nieces and nephews all within the age range of seven months and seven years old out on a grocery shopping spree and later gave her a $500 gift card to help her with groceries in the future.
Kevin Durant has never forgotten where he came from and where it all began. He spent a lot of time at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center and he realizes how much that place did for him in terms of growing up and playing basketball for a living. He donated $25,000 to the center so they could renovate their game room and lounge area. Thanks to Durant’s donation, the center was successfully refurbished and is now known as Durant’s Den. The center was able to put in a brand new vinyl floor made to replicate a basketball court, two 55-inch LCD flat-screen televisions, a projection screen, an Xbox 360, a PlayStation 3, bar stools, couches and lounge chairs. Aside from the money he has donated to the center, Durant has also donated school supplies, shoes, sports equipments and uniforms whenever the center has requested help.
He understands how blessed he is and how far he has come to get to the point he is at right now. After re-signing with the Thunder he tweeted “God Is Great, me and my family came a long way” on his Twitter. One of the youngest players in the NBA; Durant has made a sudden impact on the league in every way possible. A player with a lot of talent and skill, you can tell he is one person who doesn’t take any of it for granted. He knows that the only thing he can do from here on in is get better and that’s exactly what he is doing. As his game and leadership continue to grow year after year on the court, he is becoming the mature and responsible athlete people were expecting him to become off the court and gives back in any situation that he can. He is very grateful to those who have supported him and to those who continue to support him every single day of his life.