Kevin Durant has always valued family above all else.
In Oklahoma City, the 23-year old forward has helped the Thunder organization create a second family to complement the players’ and coaches’ biological ones. Through mutual respect and a collective work ethic, the Thunder has cultivated an atmosphere of trust and loyalty in Oklahoma City, which produces a unique brand of both basketball and personal relationships.
An exciting, busy summer saw Durant travel around the country and the world, win an Olympic Gold Medal and release a major motion picture- Thunderstruck. Despite all of that, when thunder.nba.com sat down with Durant for an exclusive one-on-one interview, the three-time NBA scoring champion explained how much he looks forward to getting back together with his Thunder teammates – his Oklahoma family – for the start of the 2012-13 season.
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“I just can’t wait to be back in the gym with the guys,” Durant said. “I miss the guys, I miss the coaches. I miss my teammates. I just can’t wait to get started. I’m going to take a few more days off then just get ready to try to have a good year.”
Durant tries to prove his commitment to his team on the floor and in the practice gym, working consistently to improve his craft on a daily basis. In the Thunder organization, the players help set the internal standards by which the team will practice, play and conduct themselves, and Durant is a key part of defining those core tenets. Through the international experience he gained on the world’s biggest stage at the Olympics, and by working on his own throughout the summer, Durant has tried to continue to develop his skills.
“I just always (try to) get better on every aspect of my game,” Durant said. “Of course there are certain areas that I need more than others. I have to continue to just keep improving every part of my game to become the best player I can be.”
The other way Durant shows how much he cares about his teammates is on a personal level. He calls his teammates like Russell Westbrook and James Harden his “brothers”, and Durant and his teammates open their arms to every player in the locker room. Days after the Thunder selected Perry Jones with the 28th selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, Durant reached out to the forward from Baylor and told him congratulations. After Jones’ first summer league game, Durant checked up on the rookie, and Jones returned the favor after Durant’s Team USA games.
“He’s a guy that really cares about his team and his teammates,” Jones said this summer at a Thunder Youth Basketball Camp. “A lot of people at his level, players like that, most of them care about themselves. It’s very rare to come around a type of player like that who cares about his team.”
Needless to say, while Durant was practicing with Team USA in Las Vegas, then his hometown of Washington, DC before traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to Barcelona, Manchester and London for the Olympics, he was busy. However, that didn’t stop him from welcoming the newest member of the young Thunder core to the squad and making sure Jones knew that he will have support this season, both on and off the court.
“Perry and I got close over the last few months after we drafted him,” Durant said. “I was happy that he reached a goal, a dream that he had been wanting for a long time...We have a good relationship and I’m looking forward to taking him under my wing and also learning a lot with him as well. I’m just trying to help him become the best and I’m sure he’s going to try to help me become the best as well. It’s going to be a fun relationship.”
Building that trust and togetherness throughout the course of a season or multiple seasons is integral to the success of a team. Led by Head Coach Scott Brooks and General Manager Sam Presti, the Thunder has continued to foster the type of environment that makes players and staff feel comfortable with one another. That objective is enhanced when team leaders like Durant not only adopt that way of treating others, but live it every day in their personal lives.
“It’s all about family with me,” Durant said. “My mom and my brother cared so much about me. I was the youngest so they always made sure that I was good. I try to do that to everybody I meet, in a team setting especially. Show them that love and care like they are a part of my family.”
“That’s what my mom would want me to do, that’s what my grandma would want me to do and my brother (too),” Durant continued. “I just try to show the same amount of love and know that we play basketball together for a certain amount of years, but the friendships that we’re going to build over time are going to last forever. So that’s what I’m about.”
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