On most Mondays, Court No. 2 inside the Santa Fe Family Life Center in north Oklahoma City is reserved for volleyball practice or basketball-hungry homeschoolers.
But the adjacent set of aluminum stage lights shining from half-court on this Monday afternoon suggested something different, something special, was happening just off the bottom of the two flights of stairs that lead to the gymnasium.
And when the man of the hour stepped on the floor, his signature long strides taking center stage just after 3:30 p.m., he entered to a chorus of applause from a small crowd of children.
Kevin Durant couldn't have been further from the big-time.
Yet this makeshift moment served as the scene from which Durant would promote his latest endorsement deal, a partnership with Degree Men.
The event exemplified how Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder's franchise player, has bucked the allure of big cities and bright lights — which often lead to big dollars — and instead has seized sponsorships in small-market Oklahoma City.
"I always told myself if I play the game the right way, if I always get better, things like this are going to come to me," Durant said. "I don't have to go other places just to get this.
"I don't want to sound like a prima donna. But if companies want to come out here and be a part of what I have going on, they're going to have to come to Oklahoma City."
That's precisely what's taking place before our eyes.
Durant's endorsement portfolio is a rapidly growing list that includes Nike, Gatorade, Panini America, EA Sports and Degree Men. Nike recently launched a viral social media campaign that presents Durant as the superstar next door. And on Monday, Durant excitedly watched his Degree Men Chain of Adventure video series in which he teamed up with adventure expert Bear Grylls on a specialized "ultimate alley-oop" challenge. Durant then served as a judge for a group of locals competing in an alley-oop contest.
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez are the only other two athletes sponsoring Degree Men's Chain of Adventure series.
"For companies to come to Oklahoma City means a lot," Durant said. "That's one thing that I wanted to do. I never wanted to go searching for anything. I never wanted to beg for any endorsements. Just let it all come to me by my play."
After leading the NBA in scoring last season, Durant spent his summer leading Team USA to its first gold medal in the FIBA World Championship since 1994. Durant then entered this season as the NBA's newest superstar, helping the Thunder land 15 televised games on ESPN, TNT or ABC. He also recently graced the covers of season preview issues of Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine.
Durant's agent, Aaron Goodwin, said added attention isn't about where a player is, but what kind of person that player is.
"It's not necessarily that they've come to him, but they've accepted him for who he is no matter where they are," Goodwin said. "It's not a situation where he has to be in New York. He's a marketable kid. He's got a great personality, he stands for what's right and people love him. So it's just a matter of matching him with the right sponsors."
Goodwin, who has represented such stars as LeBron James and Dwight Howard, called Durant unique for making basketball his primary focus despite his rising profile on and off the court. Durant, Goodwin said, has turned down marketing opportunities out of concern that certain endorsements would take too much attention away from his Thunder teammates and the organization.
"I didn't get into the game of basketball just to get endorsements," Durant said. "I always want to put basketball first and that's what I'm doing. And stuff is starting to come my way now."
We're only seeing the beginning.
"It's definitely just the start," Goodwin said. "The league is really embracing Kevin, and the advertisers are realizing that he's a genuine kid and they're hitching their boats to him. And people love authenticity."