Kd Laces 'Em Up in Honor of his Late Aunt Pearl
(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)

KD Laces 'Em Up in Honor of His Late Aunt Pearl

There’s always a purpose when Kevin Durant takes the floor for a game. But on Saturday, it will be a little more personal than the norm. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the opponent or the fact that it’s a primetime nationally televised game (5:30 p.m. on ABC).

When Durant laces ‘em up on Saturday, his late Aunt Pearl will be top of mind, literally, as he’ll be wearing the Nike Zoom KD9 Aunt Pearl. The special edition shoe is a new colorway of the KD9, featuring pink trim on the black shoe. The shoe launched today with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, a charitable organization committed to the fight against women’s cancers.

But who is Aunt Pearl, you may be asking?

As a kid in Capitol Heights, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C., KD developed a special bond with his Aunt Pearl, his grandmother’s sister. Durant credits Pearl, along with his mother and grandmother, with playing a large role in his upbringing.

“I was a quiet kid, I didn’t really have friends,” Durant said. “I talked to her even more than my mom and my grandma and my brother. I talked to her a lot and she realized how important basketball was to me.”

When he was 5 years old, KD watched countless hours of cartoons with her when he wasn’t at the playground or local rec center with a basketball in hand. He continued to spend a lot of time with her until she tragically passed away in 2000 after a battle with lung cancer – with KD right by her side.

“That whole time I didn’t know she was dying of lung cancer,” Durant said. “When she passed away right in front of me, I didn’t know what it was for.”

Within the family, Pearl’s illness was kept from Durant, who was 11 years old when she passed away. And as Durant grew into the star he would become – high school All-American, National College Player of the Year, 2013-14 NBA MVP and soon to be a seven-time NBA All-Star – he has always held the memory of Aunt Pearl near and dear to his heart.

“As I started to get older, I started to understand what cancer was and how many lives it affected,” Durant said. “I wanted to do something cool for her, something to remember her by.”

This marks the sixth straight year that KD will have a colorway of his sneaker be dedicated to his late Aunt Pearl. And while he’s not one to speak out at rallies or fill your timeline with messaging to fight this cause, having this shoe is his way to show support, raise awareness and contribute to a worthwhile cause while simultaneously honoring someone who had a tremendous impact on his life.

The result is something that sneakerheads eagerly anticipate on an annual basis.

“It’s just so amazing that everywhere I go, so many people have become fans of the Aunt Pearl and the tradition of the shoe,” Durant said. “Just to hear her name coming out of other people’s mouths, it amazes me. For them to know her story and know who she was, that puts a smile on my face.”

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