MIAMI, Fla. — With 2:21 remaining in the last game of the NBA season, Kevin Durant gave his mother, Wanda, her usual postgame goodbye kiss a bit early.
The Thunder had kissed Game 5 goodbye long before that.
American Airlines Arena was about to explode, and Mama Durant understandably opted for an early exit before the Miami Heat celebrated a world championship with its clinching 121-106 victory.
Just six games prior, Durant had given his mother another early kiss. This one came in celebration with 14.6 seconds left in the Thunder's clinching 107-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Happy and sad, both sealed with a kiss.
And when several thousand fans greet the Thunder when its plane returns to Will Rogers World Airport between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Friday, plenty more kisses will be thrown at team members, most notably in the direction of a 23-year-old franchise player who somehow knows just what to say, when to say it and how to say it.
Roughly 40 minutes after the game was over and wearing a silver backpack, Durant and teammate Russell Westbrook went to the podium for the obligatory inquisition.
Both spoke calmly, softly and graciously.
The first words out of Durant's mouth: “It hurts. It hurts, man.”
He credited the Heat: “Their defense is really good. Those guys are really good over there. I didn't want to admit it during the series, but now that it's over, those guys are really good.”
He spoke of friend LeBron James, the three-time MVP who finally claimed his elusive world title: “He played extremely well, extremely well. Like I say, I'm not one for giving a guy credit during the season, but it's over with and that guy is an unbelievable player and an unbelievable person.”
Continue reading this story on the...