The sign hugging more than half the front of the building was outdated.
Expired for six hours.
“OKC’s MVP,” read the deep blue banner, which featured Kevin Durant’s larger-than-life likeness.
Sorry, Oklahoma City.
You’ll have to share him now.
By the time Durant walked inside the old Oklahoma City Thunder practice facility Tuesday afternoon, he did so as the NBA’s newest Most Valuable Player.
The league officially crowned Durant with his first career MVP award after he garnered 119 of a possible 125 first-place votes from writers and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada, as well as a fan vote conducted on NBA.com.
A long-awaited ceremony to honor Durant turned into a communal celebration. Dignitaries from Gov. Mary Fallin to Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett had front-row seats. Select season-ticket holders were on hand to see history. And kids from a local Boys & Girls Club enjoyed a childhood moment they won’t soon forget.
That was just inside. About 1,000 more fans watched the proceedings from outside the warehouse-style facility.
They all witnessed an emotional event that left those in attendance and many others watching around the world more than a little misty-eyed.
No one grew more emotional than Durant himself, the man who once proclaimed he was tired of finishing second and finally broke through after three second-place finishes in MVP voting in the past four seasons.
But on the day reserved for Durant to finally embrace his individual achievements, he endeared himself even more to the masses by unexpectedly displaying more humility.
In a surprising but sensational 26-minute acceptance speech, Durant took time to thank those closest to him.
“When something good happens to you…I tend to look back to what brought me here,” Durant said.
And so Durant delivered a flawless and heartfelt address without notes or cues.
It was his moment and he owned it.
He was introspective and insightful, funny and frank.
He smiled. He cried. He laughed.
“I just went up there and let it all out,” Durant said. “I think I did a good job of it.”
From the moment he walked through the crowd to the tune of “Thunderstruck” and climbed his gangly frame on stage, Durant couldn’t control his emotions. As he took his seat in front of teammates and assistant coaches, and alongside Thunder coach Scott Brooks, general manager Sam Presti and Kia Motors executive Percy Vaughn, Durant tried to cover up his smile. No chance.
Then came the tears.
They flowed and flowed. When he heard his name announced as the league’s Most Valuable Player for the first time publicly by Thunder play-by-play man Brian Davis. When he thought back to the tough times his family endured. When he reflected on the never-ending support of teammates who told him he could be here. And when he saved Russell Westbrook for last among his teammates when telling each of them exactly what they mean to him.
He cracked jokes, too.
He told us he hated Kendrick Perkins before the big fella became a teammate. He told Thabo Sefolosha he wasn’t sure he spoke English when he joined the team midway through the 2008-09 season. He popped Serge Ibaka for still not speaking English. And he admitted he had no idea who Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams and Grant Jerrett were before the Thunder drafted them.
“One of the things I think we all just witnessed again is a classic KD authentic moment,” Brooks said of Durant’s acceptance speech. “He just won the highest individual award the NBA can offer, the MVP of the National Basketball Association. And the first thing he mentioned was ‘It’s our trophy.’ That’s who he is. That’s the person that we all have grown to love and have seen grow up in front of our eyes.”
Durant never wanted to make Tuesday’s ceremony about him. This was his award, sure, but this was his way of sharing it with the people who mean the most to him and helped him reached this milestone.
His family. His friends. His teammates.
“I had so much help. So many people believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” Durant said. “So many people doubted me and motivated me every single day to be who I am. I’ve failed so many times and got back up. I went through the toughest times with my family.”
He lost his composure. His voiced cracked.
“But I’m still standing,” he said.
A most valuable player and person.