Humble and unassuming since he arrived in the NBA five years ago, Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant is beginning to speak up for himself.
Though still 23 years old until Sept. 29, the Thunder’s three-time All-Star said he considers himself an essential element of the NBA’s present rather than its future.
“I’ve heard a few times, ‘In three or four years, this league is going to be yours.’ … I don’t like that, because I think I’m established now. My time is now,” Durant told Michael Lee of the Washington Post. “I feel as though I’ve proved myself these last five years that I can be one of the top players in the league. I’ve got a long way to go to being the ultimate best, but I think my time is now. And I’m starting to enter my prime.”
Durant has accomplished many things at a young age, the most recent starring as himself in the movie “Thunderstruck,” which hit theaters on Friday.
The NBA’s three-time scoring champ and 2007-08 rookie of the year added an Olympic gold medal to his trophy case this summer, leading unbeaten Team USA in London while setting an Olympic tournament record in total points with 156 (19.5 ppg).
Durant said he felt he has belonged in the discussion of the league’s best since playing in the 2011 All-Star Game inLos Angeles, but never stated so publicly. “I don’t like to talk about myself, but I had to get that out there,” Durant said.
Durant’s confidence grew even more during the Olympics when he was teammates alongside LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and others.
“I always felt that I belonged on top with those guys and I just have to continue to keep working to maintain that,” Durant told Lee. “It feels good to be a part of a great group of guys, to do something special for the country. We all respected each other and they never looked at me as the younger guy coming up and waiting his turn. They were just, ‘Go out there and play, do what you do.’ And that’s what I did.”
As for venturing into Hollywood, Durant credited his mother, Wanda Pratt, for convincing him to do “Thunderstruck.”
“The thing that I was more concerned about is that I was just so shy. I didn’t want to look dumb,” Durant told the Post. “She told me, ‘Don’t worry about that. You can’t let other people dictate how you live.’ She gave me a whole little speech. I said, ‘Why not?’ I want people to see another side of me that they don’t see on the basketball court.”
Durant said he received text messages from James, Paul and Carmelo Anthony, who said they planned to take their children to the movie. “When people are used to you doing something, they want you to stay in that lane,” Durant said. “But I had the courage to do something else and most people don’t want to see you do that. I really don’t care. I’m going to enjoy it. My family is going to enjoy it and people that go into it with an open mind are going to enjoy it.”
The Olympic experience left an impression with Durant.
“That’s the top for sure,’ Durant said. “Not just because we won the gold. It’s just the memories that we had while we was over there. Every day was fun. It felt good to win the gold medal but I learned a lot by losing in the Finals and just going through every single obstacle throughout the season, the ups and downs. I can learn a lot more from losing and going through tough times rather than just winning it and going from there.”
On Oct. 2, the Thunder begins training camp in preparation to defend its Western Conference title and a return trip to the NBA Finals. To get there, OKC figures to collide with the Los Angeles Lakers, who acquired point guard Steve Nash and center Dwight Howard during the offseason.
“We all are going to have to compete,” Durant said. “I don’t think no team is going to lay down for anybody. Everybody has got to play and I like our chances.
“I’m not going to let people define my career as a player thus far if I don’t win a championship. They are going to say I’m a bust or I flopped or that I didn’t have a good career in the NBA because I didn’t win a championship in the time that they wanted me to do it? I’m just going to keep enjoying what I’m doing and hopefully I get there sooner than later.”