When Kevin Durant was preparing to enter the 2007 NBA Draft, his college coach, Texas' Rick Barnes, made a bold prediction.
He said Durant would be the best player in the world by the time he was 25.
Today, Durant is 23 and already is in that conversation.
“That's my fault, because I underestimated him,” Barnes said.
Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are preparing for Thursday's Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. The Thunder won Game 1 105-94, with Durant scoring 36 points.
Barnes answered several questions about Durant on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference Thursday morning.
The Texas coach reflected on the pre-draft criticism Durant received about his perceived lack of strength.
“I always keep thinking back about people saying he couldn't bench press 185 pounds,” Barnes said.
“I said, ‘I don't know how many times he can bench press 185, but one thing I do know he will do and can do: he can put that world championship trophy over the top of his head.”
Barnes also coached Thunder reserve Royal Ivey and Heat reserve Dexter Pittman when they were Longhorns.
“People here are really following with a keen eye,” Barnes said. “We're excited about the opportunity those guys have.”
But it was Durant who Barnes spent much of his time Thursday talking about.
“You could see Kevin as a high school player and know he's gifted,” Barnes said. “But from the very beginning, he understood it was more than that, that it was about winning.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What does he do for fun?' He plays basketball. He loves it. I don't care where he is, what he does; he wants to be around the game.”
Barnes also praised Kevin Durant the teammate.
“We got to live with him for a year,” Barnes said. “You just knew that he had it.
“As good as he is as a player and a person, he's an all-time great teammate. The best. I mean, he gets it, because he's all about one thing. He realizes that he's not the only person that takes a win. He's special.”