In 2010, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant made his first NBA playoff appearance, led his country to a gold medal and signed a multimillion-dollar contract extension.
And on Thursday, Durant was named the 2010 Oklahoman of the Year by Oklahoma Today magazine.
â€œThat's an unbelievable honor,â€ Durant said. â€œSo many great people have lived in the state of Oklahoma. A lot of great people have come through here. Then they pick me, only being here for a couple of years. I'm very honored and blessed and also humbled. It's a great award to receive.â€
The magazine, which is a part of the state Tourism Department, selected Durant, a Suitland, Md., native, for his undying commitment to the Oklahoma community. Durant has planted himself in the community since the Thunder relocated to Oklahoma City from Seattle in the summer of 2008.
â€œHe's very cognizant that he wears the city's name on his jersey,â€ Thunder general manager Sam Presti told the magazine.
â€œKevin personifies so much of what our organization is trying to be about. Those qualities run parallel with the values of this city and state. His commitment to giving back to the community in which he lives really establishes the fact that he is a true citizen who values the support he's received and is focused on returning that support with his time in other philanthropic endeavors.â€
Durant led the Thunder to an unexpected 50-win season last year, leading the NBA in scoring at 30.1 points per game before captaining a thrilling first-round playoff series against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. Durant then finished as the league's runner-up for Most Valuable Player behind LeBron James.
In July, Durant signed a contract extension for the maximum allowable years under NBA rules, a deal that will keep him with the franchise through the 2015-16 season. Two months later, Durant earned MVP honors after leading the USA to a gold medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, the country's first gold medal in the tournament since 1994. On Wednesday, Durant was named the 2010 USA Men's Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for his performance over the summer.
Through it all, Durant has remained humble and gracious. He has maintained a presence at his annual summer basketball camp for Oklahoma City-area boys and girls, and he insisted that less-heralded teammates Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Krstic appear with him on a recent cover of Sports Illustrated.
â€œPlaying this game of basketball, you're going to receive a lot of trophies and awards,â€ Durant said. â€œTo have Oklahoman of the Year kind of stands out to me. It's a lot more than just a basketball award. It shows that I've come a long way as a person, as a player.â€
A close-up shot of Durant graces the cover of Oklahoma Today. A photo within the cover story has a shot of Durant cupping a pile of Oklahoma red dirt. The issue will arrive to subscribers starting Saturday and will appear on newsstands at the beginning of January. The article can be read in its entirety on the magazine's website.
The magazine has been naming an Oklahoman of the Year since 1992, when it awarded Garth Brooks the honor. Other honorees include Olympian Shannon Miller and astronaut Shannon Lucid (1996), music stars Toby Keith (2003), Carrie Underwood (2005) and Vince Gill (2007) and Thunder chairman Clay Bennett (2008).
â€œI can't put into words how cool it is to be here,â€ Durant said. â€œI'm happy I'm here. God has put me in a great place because it's the perfect place for me.â€