It was the faith declaration heard all around Thunder Nation.
In the afterglow of thumping back-to-back NBA champions the Miami Heat on Jan. 29, Oklahoma City Thunder star forward Kevin Durant, during a postgame interview with an ESPN reporter, attributed his remarkable success on the court to the Lord.
It wasn't the first time the hoops star's Christian faith has drawn interest (remember the Bible in his book bag?), but this time his fervent words drew widespread attention, due, in part, to the reporter's response and the millions of TV viewers who tuned in to see the Thunder battle the Heat.
Here's the interview conversation that drew extensive interest:
ESPN reporter Doris Burke: “What goes into a streak like this to get you to the level that you've been at these last 12 games? What goes into that, Kevin?”
Durant: “God — that's all I can say. Jesus Christ.”
Burke: (laughter) “OK, thank you — and you didn't have nothing to do with it?”
Durant: “Nothing. It's all Him.”
Many Thunder fans took to social media to discuss the interview. Twitter, in particular, was abuzz with tweets on the topic, with some individuals expressing their admiration for the NBA star's humility and others criticizing Burke for laughing after Durant's answer.
Two days later, Durant was asked what he thought of Burke's reaction to his declaration.
“Nothing at all. Nothing, really. I really have nothing to say,” he said during an interview before the Jan. 31 game against the Brooklyn Nets.
“I answered the question. She answered. Her reaction was nothing more than that.”
The superstar attributed his humble response to Burke's question to his growth as a believer.
“Life's about evolution, and I think I'm growing as a man and growing spiritually, of course,” he said. “Just figuring things out a little bit more. That's all it is — just growing as a man and giving credit where it's due. It's not about me.”
Several Oklahoma ministers said Durant's comments to Burke were encouraging.
“I will say that I definitely wasn't surprised by Kevin Durant's comments, particularly when he specifically mentioned Jesus Christ,” said the Rev. Scott Williams, an Edmond author and former LifeChurch.tv Northwest Oklahoma City campus pastor.
“Anyone who has followed Kevin Durant this season and in previous seasons knows that he's growing in his relationship with Christ. It's evident in how he carries himself. You just see that, definitely, God is all over KD.”
Williams, 40, who frequently tweets about court action during Thunder games, said he is not aware of any other NBA player of Durant's caliber who has been as publicly emphatic about his Christian faith as Durant after the Heat game.
“I think it was a defining moment,” Williams said. “It's really cool to see.”
Another Thunder fan, the Rev. Cameron Whaley, senior pastor of Canadian Valley Baptist Church in Yukon, said he saw the exchange between Durant and Burke and instantly thought about another athlete, NFL cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman boasted about his talent and went on a negative rant about one of his opponents during a postgame interview after Sherman's Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers for a Super Bowl berth. (Sherman later apologized for his negative comments about one of his opponents and for taking attention away from his team's victory.)
“I immediately thought about Richard Sherman's interview, and the difference between the two (Durant's and Sherman's) was striking,” Whaley said.
“Durant's statement definitely showed his humility given the atmosphere we see in sports these days. Not to take anything from Richard Sherman, but it definitely contrasts quite significantly to what Kevin said and how he said it. Both are huge moments.”
Whaley, 33, said he has given the invocation at three Thunder games over the last three seasons.
Like Williams, he said he wasn't surprised by Durant's comments. Rather, the star athlete's remarks seemed to add more credence to his reputation as one of the more humble leaders in the sports world.
Reactions to Burke
Whaley said he wasn't offended by Burke's response to Durant, though he heard that others were upset.
On Jan. 30, ESPN issued a statement from Burke, in which she explained her response to Durant.
“He just took me by surprise with his reaction — not because he's a believer, I'm a believer,” Burke said in her prepared statement. “It was an incredible demonstration of humility in the context of what has been a truly spectacular stretch.”
Like Whaley, another Thunder fan, the Rev. Richard Stillwell, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Walters, said he didn't think Burke slighted Durant or Christianity in general.
“My perception on that was that maybe she was a little surprised by his answer, but she gave him an opportunity to say more. I think people are too critical,” Stillwell said.
Stillwell, 45, said he posted some comments about the interview on his Facebook page because he was encouraged by Durant's faith declaration.
“As followers of Jesus Christ, we're called to honor and glorify Him in every area of our life. Kevin Durant has been given a tremendous platform to do that,” Stillwell said. “She (Burke) gave him the opportunity to take credit for himself, and he deflected it to the Lord.
“I just think he's been a tremendous ambassador for Christ.”
Williams, founder of NXT Level Solutions, a leadership development and church growth strategy firm, said he is looking forward to more Thunder games with Durant in action.
And he said he hopes people find something else to be upset about besides Burke. He said she is “a true professional” who doesn't deserve criticism.
“As Christians, we have a lot of things to have righteous anger about, and this just isn't one.”
CONTRIBUTING: Staff Writer Mel Bracht