On Thursday, media members from twelve different countries gathered in Seat Pleasant for the launch of Kevin Durant’s latest shoe design with Nike. While most official sneaker launches take place in major cities, the Oklahoma City Thunder star wanted to invite journalists from Japan, France, China, the Philippines and other faraway places to his home town to show them where he came from, and to pay tribute to where his life in basketball began, the Seat Pleasant Activity Center.
The centerpiece of the launch was a guided tour of Durant’s childhood neighborhood, leaving from the activity center and beginning with a stop at the house where his grandmother, Barbara Davis, lived when Durant was a child. While Davis has since moved, the house has remained in the family.
As the dozens of media folks gathered around the small porch attached to the weathered yellow house, Durant, his grandmother and his mother, Wanda Pratt, looked at the crowd in awe.
“I never thought I would have this many people on the porch at my grandma’s house,” said Durant, shaking his head. “Just because I could play basketball a little bit.”
The house served as the family’s gathering place on Sundays. It was the “family intervention center” in times of crisis. When Durant’s Aunt Pearl lost her battle with breast cancer when he was 11, she did so in that house. Durant’s brother Tony, who came along for the day’s tour, explained that she wanted to die there.
“She didn’t want to be anywhere else,” he said. “She belonged there, at home.”
Being on the porch of the house that has meant so much to the family’s history made Pratt a little emotional, and as she addressed the media she began to cry.
“We had a lot of good times in this house,” she said, standing next to Davis and wiping here eyes. “I’m just so grateful.”
The next stop on the tour was the corner of L Street and Balsamtree Drive, “The Hill” as Durant refers to it. While the experiences at his grandmother’s house made him emotionally strong, it was the steepest part of L Street that built him up physically. Durant’s boyhood AAU coach, Taras Brown, would take him to The Hill to run up it, and then walk down it backwards. If he lost count, he had to start over.
Standing on the Hill on Thursday, Pratt recalled how she used to sit in her car at the bottom reading a book while her son ran up and backed down, over and over. Durant laughed when she admitted that sometimes she would make him do 25 more when he was done so that she could keep reading.
“I know when I have a son and he wants to play basketball, this is the first place I’m gonna send him,” said Durant. “I’m going to sit in my car and read a book and make him do 25 extra like I did. I’m looking forward to that day.”
After a stop at the neighborhood basketball courts, the tour returned back to the Seat Pleasant Activity Center for panel discussion and a Q&A session where kids from Seat Pleasant got to ask Durant questions. One by one the youngsters, who were the same age as Durant was when he first set foot in the gym, addressed him as “Mr. Durant” and “Mr. KD” and asked questions about his life, his career, and inevitably, what it’s like to play against LeBron James. At the end of the session, Durant was given a key to the city of Seat Pleasant, and took the time to address the kids directly and encourage them to have hope.
“I come from the same area you guys come from,” said Durant. “To receive this means a lot to me. Hopefully we can continue to build this city up, and let people know where we come from.”