I come from a small county outside of Washington D.C. called PG County. Me, my mom, my brother – we moved so many different places growing up. It felt like a box. It felt like there was no getting out. My dream was to become a rec league coach. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to stay home and help the kids out and be a coach. I love basketball so much and I love playing it. I just never thought I would make it to college, the NBA or stand up here today in front of you guy and be the NBA MVP. It’s just a surreal feeling.
I had so much help. So many people believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. So many people doubted me and motivated me every single day to be who I am. I fell so many times and got back up. I been through the toughest times with my family, but I’m still standing.
In the game of basketball, I play first off because I love it. I love to have fun. I love to run up and down the court. I told Grant Hill back there – I just got done playing against him – as a second grader I had a Pistons Grant Hill jersey. That was the first time I walked into a gym. That’s when I fell in love with the game. My mom, I think she just wanted to get me and my brothers out of the house for a few hours. When I walked into the gym, I fell in love with the game. I didn’t fall in love with it just because it was me playing. I fell in love with it because I’ve got guys like this – like these guys every single day that push me to be the best that I can be.
I want to single them out. Vets of this team. Fish, Nick, Perk, Thabo, Caron, Serge, Hasheem. I just want to say thank you to you guys, man. Y’all mean so much to me just because I could walk in and have a terrible day and I can see Hasheem smiling at me at 7-3 with small pants on. That’ll change my day.
Or I can see Fish, just a button-up like a mayor, like a president. Just demands so much from his teammates, has played with so many great players but still respects everybody. He’s 38 years old – nothing else to prove – I said, “Fish, you want to come get some shots with me?” First thing he says is “yes” because he always wants to learn even though he’s done so much in this league, played with so many great players. He always wants to learn and that motivated me to know that it’s never a point where you can stop getting better. He’s the guy that made me realize that.
Perk, from the minute you got here…I hated you before you got here. The moment you got here, man, you just changed my whole perception of you. Just one of the best teammates I ever had. I just thank you so much. The late night calls after tough games, you texting me, telling me I’m the MVP. That means a lot to me, man. Thank you.
Sorry. I’m going to keep going.
Nick, you know, the first guy I met when I first got to Seattle as an 18 year old. You took me in. You believed in me from the beginning. You knew that I had potential. Every single day, I know I can look at you and know that you respect me as a man, as a player and you’re going to ride with me to the end. And I thank you.
Thabo, when you came to the team, man, I didn’t know if you spoke English or not, so I didn’t know how to approach you. You were always so quiet, but I could tell you were about the team first. You came in and you went to work from Day 1. You also believed in me, always gave me confidence. When I’m having a tough stretch, you always come to me and hit me on my chest, just tell me “let’s go,” and I know what that means from you. I appreciate you so much, man. You being here, being a part of this journey with me means a lot. I thank you.
Caron, even though you just got here a few months ago we’ve grown so close over these last few weeks and I can remember when you first got here you wrote a piece of paper in my locker … I don’t know why I’m crying so much, man … you wrote a piece of paper in my locker and it said, “KD MVP.” And that was after we lost two or three straight. I don’t really say much in those moments, but I remember that. I go home and I think about that stuff, man. When you got people behind you, you can do whatever. I thank you, man. I appreciate you.
Serge, my ex-next door neighbor. You still can’t speak English, but I know what you’re talking about. Our relationship is definitely like a brother relationship where I squared up with you one day in practice ready to fight you. The next day as soon as we got back into the locker room, we were hugging. We were talking about how we were going to be better the next game. And when Russell was out, you stepped your game up for me, for the team. There were nights where you made me look way better than I am. You clean up so many of our mistakes, man, and we appreciate that. From everybody on the team, we appreciate that, man, and I thank you so much for giving me confidence when I didn’t have it, for always being there when I wanted to talk to you, when I wanted to call, for arguing with me all the time, making me better and realizing I’m not always right. Thank you, man. I appreciate you.
I can’t forget about my young guys. We had a group text after Game 5 and I forgot to put my young guys in there and they felt some type of way about it. Jeremy, Perry, Andre, Steve and Reggie, Grant. You guys make me so much better without even knowing, man, because I know I set an example for y’all. I know there are days where I have my bad days. I say some words I’m not supposed to say sometimes, but when I need an extra push, you guys are there, man. I appreciate that. I appreciate that because I’m not always the best leader. I’m not always the best player. I don’t always shoot the best in the games. But our little handshakes we do before games, that gets me going.
Andre, you are one of my favorite teammates ever and I thank you so much, man. Your spirit, just your smile. It means a lot to me.
Perry, Jeremy … man, just knowing you guys look up to me and I can help you out so much. I can pull you to the side when we’re working out and just as much as you think I’m making you better, you’re elevating my game.
Reggie when I first met you, you didn’t say two words to me. I didn’t know who you were, but we instantly clicked. You became one of my best friends, man. Words can’t explain how much I care about you, your well-being, how you’re feeling. Not even just basketball, but off the court, making sure you’re alright. You’re such a humble person, man. You do everything for the team. You always put yourself last and I learn a lot from you. Thank you, man. Thank you.
Steven, Big Kiwi. I didn’t know who you were when you first got here, but you made me realize with the screens you set in practice … you elbow me when I come down the lane. You let your presence be known, man, and you’re just such a fun, spirited person. Never change who you are, man. You mean a lot to me. You inspire me, too. You’ve been through so much at a young age and I relate to that. I know your story. I don’t really talk about it a lot, but I know. Keep being who you are, man, because you’re a hell of a person. Thank you.
Grant, when we drafted you, once again I didn’t know who you were. But when we got together in the summer time, I seen how talented you were. I seen how much you wanted to learn and I wanted to be on-point every single day because I know how much you were watching me. I thank you for your support, just your kind heart, your spirit, everything, man. I appreciate you. Even though you’ve been here for a few weeks, you mean so much to our team. I’m glad you’re a part of it.