MIAMI, Fla. — With 2:21 remaining in the last game of the NBA season, Kevin Durant gave his mother, Wanda, her usual postgame goodbye kiss a bit early.
The Thunder had kissed Game 5 goodbye long before that.
American Airlines Arena was about to explode, and Mama Durant understandably opted for an early exit before the Miami Heat celebrated a world championship with its clinching 121-106 victory.
Just six games prior, Durant had given his mother another early kiss. This one came in celebration with 14.6 seconds left in the Thunder's clinching 107-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Happy and sad, both sealed with a kiss.
And when several thousand fans greet the Thunder when its plane returns to Will Rogers World Airport between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Friday, plenty more kisses will be thrown at team members, most notably in the direction of a 23-year-old franchise player who somehow knows just what to say, when to say it and how to say it.
Roughly 40 minutes after the game was over and wearing a silver backpack, Durant and teammate Russell Westbrook went to the podium for the obligatory inquisition.
Both spoke calmly, softly and graciously.
The first words out of Durant's mouth: “It hurts. It hurts, man.”
He credited the Heat: “Their defense is really good. Those guys are really good over there. I didn't want to admit it during the series, but now that it's over, those guys are really good.”
He spoke of friend LeBron James, the three-time MVP who finally claimed his elusive world title: “He played extremely well, extremely well. Like I say, I'm not one for giving a guy credit during the season, but it's over with and that guy is an unbelievable player and an unbelievable person.”
He spoke of what fuels him: “I'm going to find the positives and negatives … It's going to hurt a little bit. We've got to move past it.”
And, of course, Durant reaffirmed he wouldn't want to play anywhere else but OKC.
After losing to Dallas in the Western Conference Finals last season, Durant said he felt like he let the whole city down.
Nothing could have been further from the truth back then, and nothing could be further from the truth right now.
Evidently, this was the year to finish No. 2 for Durant.
Though he won his third straight scoring title, Durant finished runner-up to James for the league's Most Valuable Player and runner-up for the world championship.
Next month, Durant and James will join forces on the U.S. Olympic team, a scary 1-2 combination when you think about it.
Durant averaged 30.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and shot 54.8 percent from the field in the Finals, despite being the primary focus of a suffocating Miami defense.
James' numbers were more well-rounded at 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists.
“I think Kevin Durant is a hell of a player, one of the best players we have in this league, hands down,” James said. “I basically told him I was proud of him, everything he achieved this year. You know, he's going to use this experience, like I used it, as motivation.”
When his interview session finally was over, Durant had the temerity to tell the media: “Thank you guys for everything you did this season, good or bad. We appreciate it.”
That never happens, not even from a player on the winning team.
But it happens with Kevin Durant, who no doubt will be back better than ever next season, which will make Thunder fans prouder than ever.
If that's possible.