Baby Ice Q + A
Thunder star Kevin Durant always keeps it real.
by Nima Zarrabi
Los Angeles — I was in the 6th grade when my heart was broken for the first time. Back then the Los Angeles Lakers were my world. Growing up in Long Beach, CA during the Showtime era, I was hooked on the Lake Show at an early age. I rocked my purple and gold Converse Weapons daily, brushing them down in the morning and putting them to use on the dusty courts at Bret Harte Elementary in the afternoons. So when my parents walked into my bedroom one morning during that particular school year and told me that we were moving out of SoCal to a place called Seattle, I was heated.
After the initial tears, I came to my senses and asked serious questions. Could I stay? No. How far is Seattle from the Fabulous Forum? Not sure. Do they have Prime Ticket? No. How was I going to get the Long Beach Press Telegram? They have newspapers in Seattle. How would I ever get to watch the Lakers play again? They have an NBA team in Seattle. Yeah, but they suck, I thought. Eventually, I bought into the move after my parents bribed me with an ill black Lakers Starter jacket (I angled for that thing for years).
My disappointment over the move quickly turned into a resentment for the hometown Seattle SuperSonics. I hated those cats with a passion. They couldn’t touch my Lakes. My cousin—born and raised in Seattle as a die-hard Sonic fan—helped fuel the fire. It wasn’t until I reached college that I finally began to respect them as a team. Much of that had to do with the one and only Gary Payton. He couldn’t be denied. He played the game the way I wanted to live life: N.G.A.F (Not giving a f***).
When the 2007 Draft rolled around and Portland Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard went for Greg Oden and his “pristine knees” over Texas’ Kevin Durant, I was stoked for the city. They were getting a once-in-a-lifetime player who was sure to take the League by storm.
In the end, that is truly what hurts the most about the Sonics leaving Seattle for Oklahoma City. For die-hard Sonics fans, not having the opportunity to see this fantastic player grow into the superstar is hard to swallow. I will leave it at that.
Last week, I caught up with Durant who was in town attending the Gatorade High School Player of the year awards. He was his gracious self, articulate and cordial as ever.
SLAM: Have you sold your home in Seattle yet?
Kevin Durant: No, sir.
SLAM: Did you want to keep it, or sell it?
KD: Sell it. It’s tough man. The market is tough for everybody right now. I lived out in Mercer Island.
SLAM: Any restaurants you miss?
KD: Sport Restaurant, right across from Space Needle. I used to go there all the time. Oceanaire Seafood Room. We don’t have that in Oklahoma. But I’ve been able to find a couple good spots in Oklahoma.
SLAM: How has the transition been for you in Oklahoma City? Are you feeling comfortable yet?
KD: I am. It only took me a couple months. I’ve always been moving since I was young. Since I was 8 or 9 years old, we would move to different houses or apartments. I went to three different high schools. So moving was nothing new. But I’m looking forward to settling down in the same city for a while. Same streets, same people.
SLAM: Now that some of the dust has settled as far as the move, do you feel like most Sonics fans have been positive with you?
KD: A lot of them have. They were very polite to us even though we had no control over the move. I miss Seattle. It was tough but this is business. I’m glad I’m in Oklahoma but I can’t take away what Seattle has done for our team and me as a person.
SLAM: Do you ever trip on the fact that you’re actually supposed to be a senior in college right now?
KD: I do. All the time. I’ve been back at school for about a month and a half now. When I’m there, I always wonder what if I would have stayed here. What would it be like to graduate? To walk across that stage and get my degree? But this is the life I wanted. I would have never passed this up for anything. I’m just glad I’m here.
SLAM: Have you gone back and taken classes at UT during both of your off-seasons? Is getting your degree something that is important to you?
KD: Yes I have. Getting my degree is very important to me. My mom always emphasized that it was important for me to go back and get my degree after I left. We sat down and talked and she said it would be the best thing for me. Going back down there, going to school, working out with the best strength coaches and players at Texas. I’m sort of killing two birds with one stone.
SLAM: So it’s all fam down there, still? Even though you left early, they still embrace you with open arms?
KD: I go through all the workouts with the guys. I go through study hall with them, class with them. I feel like I’m back being a student.
SLAM: That must mean a lot to Coach Barnes. Having his kids get a chance to see how you work up close and personal.
KD: You know what? I thank them everyday for what they do for me. It’s bigger than me. It’s about helping the younger guys out and I just thank them for giving me the opportunity to come back down there and go to school, jump into workouts and play with the guys everyday. Like I said, I’m just glad to be there.
SLAM: Your shooting percentage rose dramatically this year, especially from the three-point line. You went from 43 percent from the field in your first year to 48 percent in the second year. Your three-point percentage was 29 percent as a rookie and 42 percent in year two. All while taking more attempts. What do you attribute that improvement to?
KD: Getting better, man. That’s what it’s all about. Even LeBron has struggles. Even Carmelo has struggles. Even Kobe has struggles. Unless you’re a dominant 7-5 big man, it’s going to be tough for you to get easy baskets in the NBA. I knew I would go through that. I’m smart enough to know that it wasn’t going to be like college, where you get 20 every night while shooting 50 percent from the field, grabbing 14 rebounds and 4 blocks. It’s a learning process. I’m willing to go through it and it’s helped me get to where I am now. I have a long, long way to go to become the player I want to be.
SLAM: Did it also have to do with resting up during the off-season?
KD: I don’t consider it the off-season. A day or two after the season ended, I was back lifting weights, playing pickup. I may have taken off a day here or there, but when the season ends, it’s a consistent grind for me. My mom always gets on me about not taking a vacation but if you look at all the great players, they don’t take that much time off. I just want to be in that company.
SLAM: There is an aura about you. You don’t seem to get too high, too low on the court. Off the court, you are extremely nice and treat everyone with respect. Where does that stem from?
KD: My mom, grandmother, my dad. Everybody that helped me. I have to treat everyone with respect. That is how my mom taught me. I can’t ever be rude to people. That is not me. I have a kind heart. I forgive people easily and I want to do things for people. That’s just the way I am. I like being that way and people respect me for it. I’m glad my parents raised me the way they did. My brother helped with it as well. I have to continue to be that way.
SLAM: Let’s talk about the sneaker game for a minute. Some people seem to think you received the last big shoe contract. The game has changed a bit. I know both adidas and Nike made strong pitches for your services. Can you discuss that a bit?
KD: [Smiles] First off, God has put me in a great position my whole life to succeed. He put the right resources in front of me and I had to work myself into those positions. Secondly, both Nike and adidas made a great push for me. In the end, I felt more comfortable with Nike and joining that family. Not to take anything away from adidas. Nike is a great company that fits my style and the shoes are unbelievable. And, they were going to give me my own shoe, so you can’t beat that.
SLAM: Can you tell us anything about your new shoe for the upcoming season?
KD: I’m just going to tell you that it’s going to have a strap on it. That’s all I can tell you [Laughs]. Oh, it will also be in our team colors. That’s the only two things I can give you right now.
SLAM: I’ll take that. Being the competitor that you are, does the fact that you went No. 2 overall behind Greg Oden in the draft motivate you at all? The way we judge drafts is by looking back years after the fact, and right now you have many people thinking that Portland made a big mistake.
KD: If you get motivated by things like that, I just don’t see why you play the game. A lot of people say I’m going to make this team or that team pay for passing on me. You should always want to do that. You can’t just flip that switch on. For me, I’ve always been like that. I always have had that killer instinct no matter what.
SLAM: Oklahoma City will have to be speaking with you and your representatives about an extension very soon. Do you believe in GM Sam Presti’s vision for this team and is this the team you want to be on in the future?
KD: I love this team, man. This is where I want to be. Sam is incredible. He’s like another father to me, outside of my real father. Anything I need. He’s always asking if I need anything or how my family is doing. I just like good people like that. He’s not just a GM. He’s more of an everyday guy that is always around. He asks my input on everything, whether it’s about the newest music out or what type of shoes I like. Small stuff like that. I love him, I love the organization and hopefully I can stay as long as possible.
SLAM: Of the NBA people I have spoken to, Sam truly stands out. In my dealings with him, he has shown me a great deal of respect and professionalism. A great guy.
KD: I’m blown away too. He’s so young! But he’s so mature, so you wouldn’t think that. We have guys on our team that are older than he is. He’s a great person to be around and I’m glad I’m playing for his team.
SLAM: Were you happy with the moves you guys made in the draft?
KD: We’re moving in the right direction. The guys are great people off the court which is important and they are unbelievable on the court. They can do so many things to help our team. I like the core we have. A lot of people are making big moves in free agency but I really like what we have.
SLAM: I want to personally thank you for that Rookie-Sophomore game this year. It was the only event of All-Star Weekend that my boys and I wanted to attend. We bought some tickets on the street about 20 minutes before tip-off and they were worth every penny. You put on a show.
KD: [Laughs] Thank you. Thank you. You know what? I took that as a regular game. I wanted to be in that All-Star Game so bad. I know it’s more than just individual accolades that get you there. Our team may not have had the record, and we weren’t one of the top teams, but I wanted to be in it so bad I treated that game like my All-Star game. I wanted to play hard and win. So that was my time to come out and show everybody what I can do.
SLAM: Kevin, thank you for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
KD: You’re welcome. And tell your boys I said what’s up.