Kevin Durant made huge waves during the free agency craze that followed the 2015-16 NBA season. His departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors has since been the stuff of intense debate from sports broadcast desks to water coolers across the country.
Despite dueling opinions about Durant’s recent career decisions, he is still, in many ways, that same kid from D.C., that first stepped foot on the NBA stage back in 2007.
In this CSJ conversation with managing editor Chad Bonham (that took place prior to Durant’s departure for Golden State), the 2014 NBA MVP and two-time Olympic gold medalist talks about his NBA Finals experience in 2012 benefited him, what it’s like playing basketball for Team USA, and how his faith has guided him throughout all of the ups and downs along the way:
Chad Bonham: How have you grown as a leader since coming to close to an NBA championship back in 2012 and then winning the gold medal at the Olympics that same summer?
Kevin Durant: Experience is the best teacher. I’ve been through a lot—going to the Olympics, going to the Finals, having a lot of good games and having a lot of bad games. It’s a rollercoaster ride and I’m just happy I’m a part of it. If it was easy, then everybody could do it. I’ve learned so much about myself and about my game, and I just keep growing every single year. It’s fun that I get to live out my dream every single day. It’s a blessing. I can’t lose sight of that and I’ve just got to keep pushing.
Bonham: What’s it like being a part of the U.S. Men’s National Team and to win not one but now two Olympic gold medals?
Durant: It was an unbelievable feeling; first of all, to play for your country, and to represent your country and your family, and the city and the state that you come from. Words can’t explain how excited I was when the gold medal game was over and we’d won. It felt like we’d won the NBA championship. It was a great feeling to represent everyone back here in the USA and to come together with that group of guys.
Bonham: What is the foundation of your faith?
Durant: It comes from my family. I went to a Christian school. I was always intrigued simply about how we got here. Why do we do the things we do? Who made us like this? My mom always sat me down and talked to me and I have spiritual teachers that help me out. I’m not perfect at all by any means. I’ve got a long way to go to become closer to the Lord, but hopefully I can continue to stay on the path. I might take steps forward and take a couple steps back and take steps forward again, but I want to get better.
Bonham: Tell me more about your family, and how they influenced your decision to pursue a relationship with God?
Durant: When I was young we went to church a lot, but we didn’t go as much when I grew up and got into middle school and high school. There’s no excuse why I don’t go as much now. I should go more than I do. But in my defense a little bit, I go to chapel before every game and I have a spiritual coach I talk to and he’s helping me out a lot in my walk with the Lord. I always try to get better in my walk.
Bonham: You’ve mentioned in the past the influence of former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Ollie (now the head coach at the University of Connecticut) in relation to getting you and the team to regularly attend chapel services.
Durant: He’s unbelievable. He got everybody going and wanting to learn more. I was just one of the guys who was trying to follow his lead. He was a big teacher in helping me do that and making me feel more comfortable in my faith around other people and being able to pray for other people and pray out loud and things like that; take those baby steps. I’ve been trying to do a better job.
Bonham: Are you encouraged to see a greater number of Christians in the NBA becoming more vocal about their faith?
Durant: It’s unbelievable to know. It’s good to see other people walk with the Lord too. We do so much in this league. A lot of people don’t know how they got these gifts and how they’re portraying them on the floor. It’s always good to let people know where all this stuff came from. To see other players in the league doing the same thing is a joy.
Bonham: How difficult is it to stay humble in a world where you are constantly in the spotlight?
Durant: It’s tough man. I can’t lie. I can’t lie about that. But I always kind of pinch myself and say that any day this can be gone. In the Bible, the Lord exalts humility and that’s one thing I try to be all the time—in front of people when I’m talking to people or when people tell me I’m great, I (remind myself that I) can always be better. I always work on what I have now. I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for what the gifts He’s given me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can. I’ve got to continue to be that way. I know that if I try to get a big head, my mom is going to do a great job of bringing me back down to size. I have the best of both worlds with the coaches we have here and my parents and my family doing it back at home. I’m in pretty good hands.
Kevin Durant is featured (along with 18 other Olympic athletes) in the book Glory of the Games.
(Photos: Team USA; globalite – http://www.flickr.com/photos/globalite/5096356189/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24576270)