Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Ryan Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Frost
Small Forward for the Golden State Warriors
Currently Known For:
NBA Basketball Player
September 29, 1988
Small Forward for the Golden State Warriors
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“It’s hard to play well, but it’s easy to work hard.” One of the highest earning basketball players in the world with a net worth of $150 million thanks to his incredible NBA salary and endorsement deals with Foot Locker and Nike, Kevin Durant certainly knows a thing or two about hard work. Hailing from Washington, D.C., Durant was one of the best players in his class and was heavily recruited out of high school before accepting a scholarship to the University of Texas where he spent one season as a Longhorn before he was drafted in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics, which soon became the Oklahoma City Thunder. Spending nine seasons with the Thunder, he made the shift over to the Golden State Warriors in 2016 and, since then, has taken home two NBA championship titles among numerous other accolades. He’s even dabbled in acting with credits in Thunderstruck, which leaves us to wonder how the 29-year-old finds time to do it all!
Building a Legacy
Kevin Wayne Durant was born on September 29, 1988 in Washington, D.C. where, just weeks after his birth, his father deserted the family and left the newborn Kevin in the hands of his mother, Wanda, and grandmother, Barbara, for the next 13 years. By then, his mother had already relocated Durant and his siblings to Prince George’s County, Maryland where Durant experienced a huge growth spurt and reached 6’0” tall by the age of 13. Because of his height, it came as no surprise that Durant was a star on the school’s basketball team where he dreamed of one day playing for the Toronto Raptors alongside his idol, Vince Carter.
“I wasn’t no phenom growing up,” Durant said of his early years on the hardwoods. “It was just my mom, my brother, my godfather, and my grandma. My games weren’t packed out in high school. I didn’t even play at night.” Although he wasn’t a huge star on the court, Durant’s dreams were big enough to push him forward as he started his career with the Amateur Athletic Union and played alongside future NBA stars like Michael Beasley and Ty Lawson for various teams in Maryland. He then played his junior year at Oak Hill Academy and started his senior year at Montrose Christian School where a five-inch growth spurt took him to a towering 6’7” prior to the start of the season. The growth spurt and his natural talent certainly helped as Durant was chosen to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game in 2006 where he was voted Most Valuable Player. Later in the year, The Washington Post named him the All-Met Basketball Player of the Year.
Ranked as the second-best high school player during his senior year, Durant was widely recruited and surprised everyone when he put on a Longhorns jersey and committed to the University of Texas where even bigger things were in store! By then, he stood at 6’9” and enjoyed a stellar season as a Longhorn averaging 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game during his freshman year. This earned him numerous honors including the National Player of the Year, the John R. Wooden Award, the Naismith College Player of the Year Award and eight other accolades, none of which had ever been given to a college freshman.
Making His Way to the NBA
Because of his stellar freshman year, there was little question that Durant would set his sights on the NBA, which is exactly what happened in the 2007 NBA Draft when he was drafted as the second overall pick by the Seattle SuperSonics at only 19 years old. Much like his college career, his first season with the NBA was outstanding as he made the game-winning shot against the Atlanta Hawks and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year averaging 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.
A year into Durant’s career with the SuperSonics, the team transferred to Oklahoma City where they were renamed the Oklahoma City Thunder. The move was huge for Durant who set the Rookie Challenge record during the 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend with 46 points! By the end of the season, he increased his scoring average by five points and earned a third-place finish for the Most Improved Player Award. In the following season, he reached a height of 6’11” and was selected to play in his first NBA All-Star Game where he became the youngest NBA scoring champion and was chosen for the All-NBA team. Although his debut ended with a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Durant was a household name and signed a five-year contract with the Thunder.
Continuing to build his reputation as one of the most talented young players on the court, Durant spent the next eight seasons with the Thunder and calmly navigated his growing stardom as he earned four NBA scoring champion honors, an NBA Rookie of the Year Award, two All-NBA Second Team honors, and six All-NBA First Team honors. “As it’s happening, I’m experiencing it all for the first time,” he said of his fame. “I wasn’t taught a certain way to be growing up. I got taught right from wrong and how to be fair. Anything else, I had to figure out.”
Making His Move: The Golden State Warriors
Undeniably figuring things out, Durant surprised his fans in 2016 when he signed with the Golden State Warriors in a decision that received a lot of negative publicity as sportscasters criticized him for mimicking LeBron James’ 2010 move from the Cavaliers to the Heat. However, Durant couldn’t refuse the Warriors’ two-year, $54.3 million contract. He donned his jersey and made his Warriors debut in the 2016-2017 season where he enjoyed a handful of career highs and helped the team advance to the NBA Finals where the Warriors were the first team in league history to start the postseason 12-0. Things only improved as Durant was the top scorer in every game leading the Warriors to the NBA Championship title and earning himself the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.
By then, Durant was a household name and one of the highest earning basketball players in the world as he signed endorsement deals with Nike and Foot Locker that took his net worth to new heights. However, he refused to let his multimillion-dollar net worth stand in the way of his passion as he built a strong reputation around his philanthropic efforts and his commitment to the game. “In between when I’m not playing, I’m just chilling, waiting for my next game,” he told GQ magazine. “When I’m in the summer, I’m waiting on my next game. These meetings and these corporate events I have to go to, I’m waiting on the next game. I’m just like not even in the mind frame to think anything else is important… and that’s a fault.”
Although it might be a fault, that’s exactly what led Durant to another huge decision in 2017 when he declined the $27.7 million contract with the Warriors in exchange for becoming an unrestricted agent with the intention of re-signing with the Warriors for less money. This, in turn, helped the franchise create a salary cap to keep the core roster intact and add free agents. “At that time in my career, I didn’t know how other people felt about my game. And I knew that I was pretty damn good, and I knew I worked extremely hard, but I needed that validation from my peers and teams and GMs, people that are really into the game, to really help me feel good about myself and help me feel confident and let me know that what I was doing was working,” Durant said of his decision. “So, when they all came and they all put stuff to the side to come to the meeting, I was like, man this is amazing. Best team in the league, some of the best players, most accomplished players want me on their team and want what I do, what I bring to the table.”
Resigning with the Warriors in July 2017, Durant had another stellar season as he led his team to a second NBA Championship that earned him a second NBA Finals MVP Award. On July 7, 2018, he resigned with the Warriors with many Golden State fans forecasting a third NBA Championship in the coming months! As for everything else, the 29-year-old Durant says it all boils down to his love of the game and the support he had from his mother growing up! “I’m looking at this whole basketball thing from a kid’s perspective,” he says. “I’m still excited. I’m still learning.”