There are no guarantees. LeBron left his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, for South Beach. Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard both fled Orlando for the glitz of Los Angeles. Who knows what Durant will do in summer 2016?
But it’s got to warm Oklahoma hearts to hear Durant use a few key phrases. Us. We. Perfect place for me.
It’s beginning to dawn on OKC and Oklahoma just how blessed has been this entire Thunder story. Getting an NBA franchise just as Durant was entering his second pro season. Getting not just a player destined to be one of the two or three best players of his generation, but a player with character traits most franchises can only dream about for their franchise star.
“We inside the walls of our building, we know what we have here,” Presti said. “We don’t take it for granted. We understand it’s a special time and place.”
That’s why Durant’s value soars. Not just in the standings, where the Thunder has been an elite team for five straight years and an NBA title contender for four. Not just on the ledger, where the Thunder’s profitability has moved the franchise into a giver, not a taker, in the NBA’s revenue-sharing system, despite OKC ranking 27th among the league’s 28 markets.
Durant’s value stretches to quality of living, where residents have a better attitude, believing that a person of Durant’s profile has found a home in our midst.
“He’s just invaluable to the city,” said Thunder fan Chris Griffith of Oklahoma City. “He’s an inspiration to especially kids, young athletes. He’s a great role model. I’ve got three boys, and they all play basketball. He’s just revered in our house, and I think he’s revered in the state of Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma is lucky to have Durant, and so is the Thunder.
Durant draws a circle around all he comes in contact with. OU or OSU fans who hate the Longhorns. Fans from Tulsa who now forget about the city rivalry with OKC. The people he plays with. The people he works with.
When the news arrived of Durant’s MVP, Thunder director of team operations Marc St. Yves, who goes back with the franchise decades to Seattle SuperSonic days, gave Durant a hug and said, “This is my first MVP.”
Durant said he thought about the words of St. Yves. And agreed. It was St. Yves’ MVP. It was his teammates’ MVP. It was his franchise’s MVP. It was the fans’ MVP. It was Oklahoma’s MVP.
“When we arrived in 2008, we were focused on building a franchise and not just a team,” Presti said. “Teams change year to year, but the franchise has to have a set of core values that allows it to endure the cycles of professional sports.
“Kevin personifies the value set that we feel are critically important to not only have a competitive team year to year, but also have an organization that is representative of a city where we play and where we live, and the type of franchise that can endure the environment of pro sports that is often very turbulent and unforgiving … A work ethic that is consistent with the state motto of Oklahoma, ‘Labor Conquers All.’ A person that understands he truly has made a difference in our community with how he deals with others.”
Most valuable player. Most valuable person.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.