Kevin Durant realized very quickly what Oklahoma is all about. Last Wednesday night, shortly before he was to have his No. 35 jersey retired at halftime of a Texas home game, someone asked Durant who was the most popular sports figure back in Oklahoma — Durant or OU’s Blake Griffin.
"Come on now,” Durant answered quickly. "The most popular athlete in Oklahoma is Sam Bradford.” Durant then was asked who should have won the 2008 Heisman Trophy. Forever a Longhorn, Durant replied, "Oh, that’s easy. Colt McCoy.” Football remains king in Oklahoma, but thanks to the oozing personality and talent of Durant (26.3 ppg, 6.7 apg), the Thunder has made a rumble in our hearts if not the NBA standings (13-45). Durant is a rare individual. Played at Texas. Beloved in Oklahoma. Flash a Hook ’em Horns sign north of the Red River and it’s blasphemy. Durant proudly flashes the Hook ’em sign every chance he gets, and the locales turn it upside down with a smile. Funny how folks around here hate everything Texas, unless somebody from down there plays for the home team, be it Billy Sims, Jack Mildren, Adrian Peterson, Thurman Thomas, Hart Lee Dykes, Dez Bryant ... or Kevin Durant. The people of Oklahoma immediately have taken to Durant. "And you know what, I think he’s really taken to them, too,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "He’s really enjoying it. He says he loves the people up there.” This love affair with Durant apparently is mutual. "I asked him about having to leave Seattle and Kevin said, ‘Coach, I like Oklahoma a lot. There’s great support and really good people,’ ” Barnes said. Texas visits Stillwater today for a 5 p.m. contest against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys (18-9; 7-6) have won four straight. The Longhorns (19-8; 8-5) appear to have stabilized themselves after a three-game losing streak at midseason. The immensely likeable Barnes is blunt, and curious, about this year’s rather perplexing Longhorns. "I don’t know which team is coming, but I’m coming with them,” Barnes said of today’s game. If the NBA had a minimum age requirement of 20 years old, this would have been Durant’s junior year at UT. Durant was 17 years old when he arrived in Austin on June 1, 2006. He left 11½ months later. When next season arrives, Oklahoma will have had Durant longer than Texas had Durant. Durant admits there are times he wonders what would have been had he stayed at UT and gotten to play with early departures LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson and P.J.