Kevin Durant says Thunder fans have nothing to worry about with his newly formed partnership with music mogul Jay-Z and his upstart sports agency, Roc Nation Sports.
“He has nothing to do with if I'm going to leave OKC or none of that,” Durant told The Oklahoman. “I heard that before so put that out on the table. He has nothing to do with that. He knows his lane with me. Their team knows their lane with me. And they're letting me handle the basketball part. I would tell fans not to worry about that at all.”
Durant became the first NBA player to join Roc Nation Sports, officially signing with the agency June 24. He joined NFL players Victor Cruz and Geno Smith, MLB All-Star Robinson Cano and WNBA rookie Skylar Diggins, who plays for the Tulsa Shock.
It was the second time in 16 months that Durant changed representation. This move triggered immediate trepidation that Durant, perhaps because of Jay-Z's influence, would soon be in search of a bigger market.
Durant has three years remaining on his current contract, which would keep him in Oklahoma City through 2016. Additionally, he has expressed his fondness for playing for the Thunder on countless occasions and said he desires to remain in Oklahoma City for “as long as possible.”
Durant also refuted a report that quoted an anonymous person who said of Durant hooking up with Jay-Z: “he had a chance to be with his idol and couldn't say no.”
“I didn't say that at all. They're speaking for me,” Durant said of the person making that claim. “I didn't say that at all. I didn't say he was my idol. I seen that comment, ‘he's my idol and I couldn't pass it up.' Nah, I didn't say that at all. I really respect Jay-Z for what he's done, being a rapper and then moving over to the business side and conducting himself the way he is now. But I never said he was my idol and I couldn't pass up on it.”
Durant told The Oklahoman in January 2009 that he wasn't enamored with Jay-Z as an icon and had little interest in getting closer to him.
“I don't know him at all,” Durant said before playing a road game against the then-New Jersey Nets, the team Jay-Z owned a small stake in at the time. “I met him twice, but I don't know him that well. I'm a big fan, but I just never got around to it I guess. I've never been a guy who's been like ‘I need to meet Jay-Z. I got to meet him.'”
Durant then added that night “I want to stay in Oklahoma as long as possible. I do. That's the honest truth. I love it here.”
The partnership with Roc Nation Sports, though, now confirms a clear change of course for Durant, who previously had expressed little interest in his marketing and branding. Though he has raked in numerous national endorsements that have featured him in countless commercials and turned him into one of the NBA's most popular players, Durant had long maintained that global marketing simply wasn't important to him.
But in his first public comments since signing with Roc Nation Sports, Durant now says he joined Jay-Z's team to help advance just that.
“I was thinking about myself first and how I could be better off the court, because that comes with the game. I can't just overlook that,” Durant told The Oklahoman. “I've got to take care of that, and they have a great team that's going to help me.
“It was something that I was really interested in. It was an intriguing situation. They've done so well for their brand, and it was something that I thought could help. I'm looking forward to becoming the first basketball guy. I'm looking forward to all of the people they have over there that's going to work with me and handle the stuff off the court while I handle my basketball.”
Durant's desire for global marketing has evolved. But he still seems comfortable with who he is, a giant fish that's still growing in the same small pond.
“Of course you know what Jay-Z has done for himself. But he's elevated a lot of different people as well. So I figured it was a good move either way,” Durant said. “It couldn't hurt me either way so I'm glad I made the decision.”