Durant: 'This is the Only Place for Me'

Thunder General Manager Sam Presti surveyed the young crowd that greeted him and Kevin Durant as they took the stage. Ninety children in a Summer Thunder Youth Basketball Camp sat cross-legged on the floor of a gymnasium, eager to see a bona fide NBA superstar.

“I’m not sure that this was in the brochure at the time,” Presti joked, “but I guess you can look at it as a perk.”

His intended understatement prompted gales of laughter from an audience of more than 200 kids, parents and well-wishers. As Durant’s first news conference in Oklahoma City since signing a multiyear contract extension with the Thunder, Presti noted that it marked a great day -- for Durant and his family, the Thunder and its fans, and the state of Oklahoma.

“In the time I’ve known Kevin, I’ve seen his game develop on a daily basis, sometimes hourly,” Presti said.

“However, the person we all met in 2007 remains the same at his core -- hardworking, unassuming, selfless, team-oriented and family-oriented. At a time when people think ‘I,’ Kevin thinks ‘we.’ At a time when the path of least resistance has become all too common, Kevin takes the long way home. He instinctively understands that part of leading others is being part of them. His approach to be a part of something, as opposed to the only thing, helps set the tone for the vision we have for our organization.”

Durant, dressed in a charcoal pinstripe suit, was characteristically humble as applause -- thunderous applause, if you will -- filled the gym at Casady School in Oklahoma City.

“I just love this organization,” Durant said of the franchise where he has played his three seasons in the NBA.

“I know what we’re about and what we stand for, which is family. This is the only place for me.”

Long before contract negotiations could even begin July 1, Durant had said he wanted to remain with the Thunder. When reporters and sports anchors asked him about his long-term hopes -- and he was asked a lot -- the NBA’s leading scorer was unwavering and consistent in his responses.

He wanted to stay in Oklahoma City, Durant had told them. He said he was excited about the Thunder’s team dynamic, its resilience, its loyal fans and its community at large. And he said he wanted to stay with the team that had drafted him back in 2007 after a stellar year at the University of Texas.

So Durant did just that. On Thursday, he signed a five-year contract extension with the Thunder.

At the news conference the following day, Durant reflected on all those who have helped and believed in him over the years, including the Thunder ownership team, Head Coach Scott Brooks and his family.

“And all the fans here in Oklahoma City, they’ve embraced us so much since we got here,” Durant said. “That’s something I’m never going to forget. I’m not a guy to guarantee anything, but I can guarantee that we’re going to work hard each and every day as a team to get better.”

The 2009-10 season was a tremendous one for Durant, of course. Averaging 30.1 points per game, he became the youngest player ever to win a scoring title. He shot 47 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free-throw line, and racked up a franchise record by scoring 30-plus points in 47 games. When it came time for MVP voting, the 6-foot-9 forward came in second.

But Presti pointed out that the 21-year-old Durant, like the entire Thunder, is continuing to evolve.

“Although he (Durant) accepts responsibility to lead our culture of team and citizenship, he’s not infallible,” Presti said.

“This is still a young guy. There will be wins and losses ahead, trials and tribulations. But the adversities that he’s faced thus far, and how he’s responded to them, have ultimately created the pathway of stability that led to today.

“Franchise players help build, enhance and sustain the franchise itself. And Kevin -- through his values, work ethic and humility -- has started this process.”

Presti also took time to praise the Thunder’s Season Ticket Members and sponsors for their role in the team’s success.

“Without the civic support that we have received in Oklahoma City, a day like today may not be possible, so I want to ensure that we thank them for their unwavering support in our market,” he said.