By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Kevin Durant can be excused for not being a Thunderhead during his formative years, not loving the basketball team he’d eventually come to lead.
Because when this region’s biggest NBA superstar was born, Oklahoma City’s beloved hoops squad was still more than a decade from existence. By the time he was 10, this franchise was still going strong as the Gary Payton-led Seattle SuperSonics.
So there’s no hard feelings when Durant admits to not being a young Thunder fan because, well, there weren’t any at that particular time.
But his team of choice may surprise you and, on the surface, make about as much sense as him liking a team years from existence.
KD didn’t claim his hometown Washington Bullets/Wizards. Or the MJ-led Bulls, as so many up-and-coming hoopsters readily admit. He didn’t even cheer for the Shaq/Kobe Laker dynasty of the early 2000′s.
Durant was a Toronto Raptors fan. You know, the unheralded franchise that can label itself as the only of the 30 NBA franchises that doesn’t play its home games on American soil.
“Believe it or not, I wanted to play for the Toronto Raptors,” Durant said Thursday on the Dan Patrick Radio Show. “That was my favorite team.”
But his reasoning, especially for a young and impressionable kid, starts to make more sense of his strange fandom.
See, at the time, the Raptors had one of the league’s best and most exciting players, dunk champion Vince Carter, and some strange (and appealing) new jerseys to go with it.
“I was a big Vince Carter fan and I just liked their jerseys, to be honest,” Durant told Patrick. “They were a new team when I was growing up, so I wanted to be a part of that.”
And though it can be hard to remember now, considering the current state of the franchise, the Raptors were a consistent Eastern Conference contender at the time, battling Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers in some entertaining playoff matchups.
And they were led by Carter and his ridiculous hops and sweet outside stroke.
“His enthusiasm he showed, his athleticism, how he brought Toronto from being one of the newer teams in the league to almost going to the finals,” Durant reminisced. “He changed the culture there in Toronto.”
The man once nicknamed Half Man/Half Amazing (and Vinsanity) may, today, be limping toward retirement on a struggling and aging Dallas Mavericks team.
But he was once able to do some amazing things, the kind of things that would inspire up-and-coming DC hoopers to like the NBA’s only Canadian team.
That strange tidbit was just one of a few interesting topics Durant discussed on the always entertaining radio show. Here’s his full interview below.