Kevin Durant has never been shy about his love for his mama.
He goes to her courtside seat after games and gives her a kiss. He hugs on her. He dotes on her. And he’s never minded if an arena full of people or a national television audience saw his affection.
But Tuesday afternoon, Durant gave us an even more intimate look behind the curtain at the relationship that he has with the woman everyone has come to know as Mama Durant.
There would be no KD without Mama D.
On a day that was supposed to be all about Durant and his latest but greatest piece of hardware — the NBA’s granddaddy of them all, the Most Valuable Player award — the Thunder superstar somehow made the event about everyone but himself. He talked about each of his teammates individually. He thanked everyone from Clay Bennett to Sam Presti to Scott Brooks, but he also took time to recognize behind-the-scene folks like Marc St. Yves, the Thunder’s director of team operations.
All the while, Durant was emotional. He cried. He sniffled. He didn’t try to stop any of it.
But he nearly broke down completely several times as he talked about his mom.
“When something good happens to you,” he said, “I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here.”
He stood at a podium inside the Thunder’s old practice facility, filled Tuesday afternoon with a thousand dignitaries and fans, but he looked straight at his mom sitting on the front row. They might as well have been the only two people in the room.
“I don’t think you know what you did,” he said.
Wanda Pratt had her first child, Tony, when she was 18 years old. Three years later, she had Kevin.
Living in Prince George County just outside Washington, D.C., the three of them moved around a bunch. Durant recounted one of his best childhood memories on Tuesday as the day that they moved into their first apartment.
“No bed. No furniture,” he said. “And we all just sat in the living room and hugged each other.
“We thought we had made it.”
Stability was rare. Security was lacking. Just making it from one day to the next was a struggle.
“It felt like a box,” Durant said. “It felt like there was no getting out.”
Basketball became Durant’s hope of escaping, but he never dreamed it would be as one of the best players on the planet. He wanted to be a rec league coach. He wanted to stay home and help the kids.
His life in basketball took a slightly different path.
And his mom was a big part of the reason why. She would wake Kevin before the sunrise and make him run a hill near their house. Then, there would be pushups. And when Kevin played, Wanda was there on the sidelines, screaming and hollering.
Still, from there to here? To NBA royalty? To basketball greatness?
Durant acknowledged that there were others besides his mom who helped. His brother. His grandmas. His dad. His friends. His coaches. But no one believed in him like his mom.
“The odds were stacked against us,” Durant said, looking again at his mom. “A single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old. Everybody told you we weren’t supposed to be here.”
“You made us believe. You kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us.”
He sniffled again.
“You’re the real MVP.”
Then, the applause began, and they didn’t stop for nearly a minute. KD joined the ovation.
Mama D sobbed, tears covering her cheeks, joy running down her face.
A little while later, after the speeches were done, the questions were answered and most of the people had gone home, she found a seat toward the back of the room. Her son sat on the stage next to his new piece of hardware, a microphone in hand, another interview under way. She shook her head ever so slightly, a can-you-believe-this look in her eyes.
The tears began again.
This mother’s day came a little early.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.