By Adena Andrews, NBA.com
Posted Dec 2 2009 6:32PM
Since Kevin Durant first touched a basketball, he's been in the spotlight. Yet, as captain for the Oklahoma City Thunder and one of the NBA's most promising young talents, the 6-foot-9 forward has managed to keep the limelight from blinding him while growing with his Thunder teammates.
Things got brighter for the 21-year-old Durant on Wednesday when he was named ESPN The Magazine's NEXT athlete for 2010 in the publication's annual NEXT issue. The first issue of ESPN The Magazine was a NEXT cover with Kobe Bryant, Eric Lindros, Alex Rodriguez and Kordell Stewart. Other NEXT athletes include Adrian Peterson, Yao Ming, LeBron James and Derek Jeter.
Durant spoke with NBA.com earlier this week.
NBA.com: What do you think when you hear the names of the athletes who have been named NEXT?
Kevin Durant: It's elite company to be in. I just have to continue to work to be on those guys' level. They set great examples for me in their respective fields and I have to do my best to be one of those elite athletes like them.
Kevin Durant is featured on the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine.
NBA.com: How has your rising fame affected you?
KD: It's an honor, I think that ESPN, the rest of the media and the league have seen my body of work and they have heard how I hard I work and that I respect the game. I think it's time for it to pay off for me. So I'm excited. I'm not satisfied but I'm humbled and honored.
NBA.com: Your team, the league and the media are expecting so much from you. Does it motivate you at times?
KD: It does motivate me. A lot of people are looking forward to me living up to this title and leading my team. People expect me to be the next superstar and I have to live up to that. The only way I'm going to get there is to just work every day, so that's my mindset.
NBA.com: How do your teammates treat you now that you have a semi-celebrity status?
KD: I put myself on the same level as everyone else. From the first man to the end of the bench. Nobody has a "celebrity status" attitude here. Especially me. I always put the team first and without them I surely wouldn't be the NEXT athlete or talking to NBA.com for articles. Once I step into this building for practice and games, it's all about the team
NBA.com: Would it be easier if there were fewer expectations for you and you could be a sleeper player in the league?
KD: Either way it's cool with me. I like being the underrated and sleeper guy, too. However, people started recognizing me and it feels good as well. As long as I handle my business here every day as a professional I will have no regrets.
NBA.com: The most constant criticism of you since you were drafted in 2007 is that you're too skinny and need to build muscle. Are we going to see Durant 2.0 with more muscle, or is this wiry frame what we will be working with for a while?
KD: I'm trying my hardest just to get there. It's tough. I'm a lot skinnier then other people, so it's tough for me to make it look like I'm stronger. I feel like I'm getting a lot stronger and bigger. Ask anybody in the organization. Hard work will take care of my fame. In a way, me being skinny makes me who I am and a lot of people are getting used to me being skinny. It's kind of unique that I can say I'm the skinniest guy in the league.
NBA.com: Your mom almost cried when she saw you on the cover of a video game. How does she react to magazine covers and TV spots now?
KD: My mom was ecstatic and called me when she saw me on the ESPN commercial with the RV bus. She was happier than I was. That kind of hit me and made me feel like this is the ultimate blessing to be part of this league and be known as one of the top guys
NBA.com: Since you have been in the league has your mom ever had to smack you back into reality and let you know you're not that big of a deal?
KD: No it's not even like that with me. Sometimes she tells me I'm too humble, too modest. I've been like that since high school. There are times when she tries to put me up to think I'm bigger than what I am. So I have to tell her to calm down. But she has been a focal point in my career and helping to make me the player I am.
NBA.com: You told your college coach that you are convinced the Thunder can win a championship and have a plan to get you there. What is it?
KD: We come in and bond and get along and do the small things as far as playing together and listening to each other. If we do these things the sky is the limit. When you have that amount of trust and love for each other anything can happen. That's the only thing I plan on. Make sure we are all close off the court and that's going to translate on the court.
NBA.com: What kind of bonding do you guys do?
KD: We like to go to the movies, the mall, I hang out at their houses. We do more than the Twitter videos you see. Everywhere we go we are with each other. We talk on Twitter when we're not around each other so it feels like we are always together. So once we are on the floor that it makes it easy for us. That's the best thing about it. We're all young too and it makes it fun to be around each other.
NBA.com: You just dropped an amazing lip sync of a Chris Brown song with James Harden and Jeff Green. What's next in your Twitter video career?
KD: It's spontaneous with us. Every road trip we hang in each other's rooms before the game and whatever song we are listening to we just go in on that. We never plan anything out. I guess that's the best part about it. So we will just have to wait and see for the next road trip's video.
NBA.com: You are the hot stuff right now, but who's next on the Thunder?
KD: Everyone knows about Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. But I think everyone is starting to forget about James Harden because he is not playing as much, but he is the next guy in line for us. He is ultra-talented, can do a lot on the floor, is a great teammate and very versatile. So I think he is next up.
NBA.com: What's next for the Thunder?
KD: Just continue to grow as a team and get better. The playoffs are in our future but right now I will take just getting better every day and taking it game by game.
NBA.com: A few quick hitters: Mac or PC ?
KD: I'm on the Mac. I've been off the PC for a while. I make my Twitter videos on a Mac. I like Macs because they do so much. It's not just a regular computer where you just go on the Internet. You don't have to have the Internet and you still like it so it's cool.
NBA.com: Twilight or Harry Potter?
KD: I've never watched either one or read either one.
NBA.com: Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift?
KD: I don't know any of their stuff either. If I did pick one I would pick Taylor Swift because Kanye did that to her on stage and I feel bad.
NBA.com: Lady GaGa or Beyonce?
KD: Is that a real question? You can't even compare Lady Gaga to Beyonce. I'm definitely on B. She is the greatest ever; everybody knows why she is the best, too. I'm going to have to give you a "Kanye shoulder shrug" on that one.
NBA.com: Jay-Z or Lil Wayne?
KD: That's a tough question ... hmmm. I'm a big a Jay-Z fan but I'm going to go with Lil Wayne. I've been a Wayne fan since the beginning since The Block is Hot. I'm not really off Jay though; he's a great artist
NBA.com: MySpace or Facebook?
NBA.com: Undefeated NFL teams, Colts or the Saints?
KD: I'm going to go with the Saints. Nobody knew they would be undefeated this time of the year. Everybody kind of knew Indiana would be undefeated and up there in the standings, but I'm going to go with the Saints.
NBA.com: What is best for the development of younger players D-League, overseas or college?
KD: I'm going to say at least one year of college. If you are going to go overseas or do the D-League, I think that's a little too early for kids to grow up at 17 and 18 years old.
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