OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant goes back to his roots

The Thunder star took media on a tour of his hometown as part of an introduction to his new shoe.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: July 3, 2013

Durant begins talking about his latest shoes yellow and teal colors. “When I was growing up, we were the Seat Pleasant Lakers, and obviously I don't like the Lakers,” Durant says. “But they changed the colors here in the gym a few years back. It was purple and gold. They changed the colors to yellow and teal. I just wanted something to represent where I came from, where I learned the game, where it all started.”

11:10 a.m. Our group boards the buses for our next destination. This time, Tony Durant, Kevin's older brother, is guiding the tour. Kevin is doing the same in bus No. 1. Tony tells us over the intercom that we're headed to his grandmother's house. It's a 10-minute ride for a coach bus that must carefully maneuver these narrow neighborhood streets. “We have great memories there,” Tony says. As the bus pulls up to Sultan Avenue and Faye Street, Tony points out the ranch house with yellow siding that sits on the corner. “The house looked like a mansion when I was 7 years old,” he says. But what really makes the house special, Tony says, is their aunt Pearl passed away inside. Kevin later released a pink colorway of his fifth edition shoe called the “Aunt Pearl” in her honor. “She didn't want to pass away anywhere else,” Tony recalls. “She wanted to be there because that's where all the memories that we had were. That's where everything started. That's the foundation of me and Kevin. We learned a lot of values in that house so it's very important.”

This quickly turns into the most emotional leg of the tour. A microphone is stationed on the porch and soon after grabbing it to address the crowd Pratt becomes overwhelmed. “This is my mom's house and this is the center of our beginnings,” she says. “Being back here means a lot.” The tears that Pratt fought back an hour earlier begin to flow. “For us to come back here with my mom and my boys, this is a good time,” Pratt says. “A lot of fond memories here. A lot of good times. I'm just so grateful for my family. And as I stand here with my boys, there were days when they were shorter than me and they had to look up to me. And no matter how high my heels are I have to look up to them now.”

A Nike official attempted to rescue Pratt from revealing her raw emotions. But before she could sequester the mic, Pratt's mother, Kevin Durant's grandmother, Barbara Davis, wanted to speak. She sat in a chair as Kevin Durant stood above her. She told a story of how Kevin once ran home upset because “Stink” kicked him out of the gym and told him he couldn't return. “He was just trying to teach him a lesson, and whatever it was he got it,” Davis says before the emotion got the best of her as well while holding the mic. “It was just a joy being around them coming up, and I appreciate both of them so much. I thank God for them. Kevin's done some wonderful things for his grandma. Bought grandma a home and bought her a car.” On that note, the Nike official finally reclaims the mic.

11:35 a.m. Kevin Durant is now guiding the tour from bus No. 2. As we leave his grandmother's house, Durant is still shocked at what he just witnessed. “I never would think I would have this many people on the porch at my grandma's house because I can play basketball a little bit,” he says.

Our bus weaves through the streets of Seat Pleasant, a small city surrounded by neighboring suburbs and Washington, D.C. Drive more than two minutes in any direction and you'll probably cross city or state lines. But these are the roads Durant navigated, mostly by foot, as a kid. The bus drives by a park in nearby Fairmount Heights, Md. When he wasn't at the rec, Durant played at this outdoor basketball court. They called it “The Kingdome.” Kevin and Tony remember playing out there for hours, sometimes until midnight or later. “Only the strongest survive out there,” Durant says. “They didn't care who you were, how old you were. If you were on the court you were playing. And I was a skinny 12- 13-year-old out there playing with grown men sometimes. And they wouldn't take it easy on me. But that built toughness. I always wanted to win. I would lose so much out there but that just molded me into who I am today.”

11:50 a.m. We arrive at the corner of L Street and Balmsamtree Drive, home to the infamous “Hunt's Hill,” or simply “The Hill.” It's a steep road that stands out in this otherwise nondescript neighborhood. It's where Kevin Durant built conditioning and mental strength. “Stink” would make Durant run up the hill and backpedal down. “When I would get to the top of the hill I could see downtown D.C.,” Durant says. “That's how steep it was. And I just absolutely hated coming here.” It didn't stop “Stink” from commanding as many as 30 sets. Durant was just 13. “Over a five-year period, this man has run this hill over 1,000 times,” “Stink” says. “And that's why he's at where he's at today.” When she wasn't working, Pratt would monitor the workouts — from inside her car at the bottom of the hill. Sometimes, she'd order an additional 25 sets. “I knew that it would make me better,” Durant says. “I really just did anything that he told me to do. I had to if I wanted to get better. I hated it at the time, but I knew it would make me better in the long run. It built up that work ethic and that discipline, and it's a big reason why I'm here today.”

12:15 p.m. We're back at the Seat Pleasant Activities Center. To provide a true sense of Kevin Durant's upbringing, Nike officials had Durant's favorite meal catered from a local soul food restaurant. The menu: chicken wings, greens and French fries.

1:15 p.m. With local elementary students now in attendance, Wilbon leads a panel discussion with Durant, Pratt, Chang, WNBA and ESPN television analyst Kara Lawson and MLS defender Oguchi Onyewu. Their messages mostly are intended for the children, encouraging them to work hard to pursue their dreams.

At the end of the discussion, a few children get to ask Durant questions. Right off the bat, the first kid asks Durant which team he would like to play for besides the Thunder. Perhaps playing to his audience, Durant politely says he'd love to be back home playing for the Washington Wizards. He is showered with cheers, but he quickly adds he's happy in Oklahoma and loves it there.

2 p.m. Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant awards Durant the key to the city. He graciously accepts before shaking hands with some, hugging others and poses for several pictures with friends, family and the city council. “It's such a cool thing to come back and try to give some hope to these kids that live in this neighborhood,” Durant says. “Because I was one of those kids running around trying to be an NBA player as well. It's a tremendous honor to be back.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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