Kevin Durant stayed busy during the NBA lockout, playing pickup games and dropping buckets across the country until he got bored with hoops and played flag football. Never taking his foot off the gas, Durant then played all 66 regular season games and 20 more in the postseason, as the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to Miami in the Finals.
Less than two weeks later, Durant began a 39-day journey of preparing and playing in the Olympics before returning home with a gold medal in tow. That would’ve seemed to be an appropriate time to sit back, relax and reflect, but Durant was in New York, sitting on Jimmy Fallon’s couch with teammate James Harden and back on the grind promoting his new kids movie, “Thunderstruck,” in which he magically swaps basketball talents with a clumsy kid.
Durant hosted premieres in Oklahoma City, Dallas and Washington but isn’t ready to slow down. Up next, he has a trip to China scheduled on a Nike promotional tour. He does plan to get some rest, right? “After that, I’ll be fine,” Durant said.
In a wide-ranging interview last week at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, Durant discussed the thrill of winning in London, how he believes his “time is now,” the challenges of making the movie, the threat of the revamped Los Angeles Lakers and how you shouldn’t be surprised if he releases a rap CD in the next year or two.
I don’t know how you keep this up — you’re a busy man.
This is what I signed up for.
You signed up for all of this? A movie?
Not when I first came out…That’s something I didn’t think of, but it was spontaneous, you know what I mean.
Was there any concern? Because that’s really stepping out there, when you do a movie. I was actually arguing with people today, because I saw Kazaam, and everyone pans Kazaam as terrible and it’s actually not as bad as folks make it out to be…
It’s not a bad movie. It’s just the fact that a basketball player is in it. When people are used to you doing something, they want you to stay in that lane. When you go outside of it and do something out of the normal, of course it’s going to be as good, because that’s not my regular field. I’m not a star, I’m not an actor. But I had the courage to do something else and most people don’t want to see you do that. I really don’t care. I’m going to enjoy it. My family is going to enjoy it and people that go into it with an open mind are going to enjoy it. We’ll see what happens.
What was it like the first time you watched yourself on film?
Yeah, um, I was shocked. The movie turned out pretty good. I was nervous to see myself. Because I watch a lot of movies and I know what’s a good movie and what’s a bad movie. I just tried to go in there with an open mind, I guess, and be real with myself. But I liked it. It was a really good turnout. I had fun doing it and I’m glad that I did it.
If there had been no lockout, do you think you would’ve been able to do this movie?
It would’ve been close. Training camp was supposed to start Oct. 1 and I started filming on my birthday, Sept. 29, so that cut it close. I had to do it probably early in the summer, but the lockout helped and I was able to get it knocked out in about a week and a half. I was able to finish it out. I’m pretty sure I would’ve still did it.
I read where you said your mom had to really encourage you. What did she say to you to convince you that this is something that you should do?
The thing that I was more concerned about is that I was just so shy. I didn’t want to look dumb. She told me don’t worry about that. You can’t let other people dictate how you live. She gave me a whole little speech. I said, why not? I thought I could be funny in it. Just go out there and be myself. I want people to see another side of me that they don’t see on the basketball court. I said, hey, why not? Knocked it out.
You talk about doing something different. There has been a lot of buzz around Stephen Jackson’s new solo album coming out. Apparently you went to the studio and dropped a verse for him?
Yeah. I did. I enjoy doing a lot of different things. I’m a basketball player. That’s what I do and what I love but that’s just not all who I am. I’m talented in a lot of different areas. Rapping is one of those things I just enjoy doing. I have fun doing. Stephen Jackson is pretty good. He’s a nice rapper. It’s a privilege to be on a song with him. It’s not one of those songs where you’re just talking about how much money you got. It’s one of those inspirational kind of deals.
Does it make you want to go in the studio and put out your own album?
I think I’m going to do something. I have some resources and some nice people that’s going to help me out. I have a studio in my house already. Maybe I might put out a little something and have a little something.
London. I’m sure that had to be at the top of things that you’ve been able to accompl ish. That’s the top for sure. Not just because we won the gold. It’s just the memories that we had while we was over there. Every day was fun. Waking up and knowing that you’re going to be around a bunch of guys that enjoy life, that enjoy what they do and don’t worry about anything else. All we was worried about was trying to bring the gold back home and once we did, it was the funnest thing ever, celebrating with those guys on the court. Hearing those USA chants all throughout the arena is something you can’t beat. It was an unbelievable experience. Being a part of the whole Olympic experience was cool. The opening ceremonies. Meeting all the athletes from different countries was fun. I can’t wait to go back.
We’ve talked a lot and you’ve always said that you hope to one day be on the level of a Kobe or LeBron. Being on that team and being a guy who they really looked to for scoring, do you see yourself there?
I feel good. One thing I can tell you is, I get upset now when people say, KD, Anthony Davis, Kryie Irving, they are going to be good for the league down the line. I don’t like that. Because I think I’m established now. My time is now. I feel as though I’ve proved myself these last five years that I can be one of the top players in the league. I’ve got a long way to go to being the ultimate best, but I think my time is now. And I’m starting to enter my prime. I’ve heard a few times, in three or four years, this league is going to be yours, and I feel as though I’m competing with the top guys in the league right now. It feels good to be a part of great group of guys, to do something special for the country. We all respected each other and they never looked at as the younger guy coming up and waiting his turn. They were just, ‘Go out there and play, do what you do.’ And that’s what I did.
Did you go in there with that attitude or did it change while you were playing with those guys each day in practice and feeling like, ‘Okay, I’m here?’
I’ve had that attitude since all-star game in LA. I had that attitude since then. I always felt that I belonged on top with those guys and I just have to continue to keep working to maintain that. That talk that the league is in good hands in four or five years, I think it’s in good hands with the guys we’ve got now, including me.
Why has it taken you so long to say something like this?
I don’t like to talk about myself, but I had to get that out there.
You were saying similar things doing the Finals, when you said you didn’t like people saying that Oklahoma City is going to be good for years and you don’t necessarily have to win the title now. The fact that teams are loading up, the Lakers adding Dwight Howard. How does that affect your window?
I don’t think it affects it. We all are going to have to compete. I don’t think no team is going to lay down for anybody. We made it to the Finals. It’s not guaranteed that we’re going to make it back. The Lakers added Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Jamison, but it’s not guaranteed those guys will make it to the Finals. Everybody has got to play and I like our chances. We’re all fighting together in Oklahoma City. I’m not saying we’re going to make the Finals again or even make the playoffs but I think we’ll give ourselves a chance and go out there and fight from the beginning and see where we end up. I’m not going to let people define my career as a player thus far if I don’t win a championship. They are going to say I’m a bust or I flopped or that I didn’t have a good career in the NBA because I didn’t win a championship in the time that they wanted me to do it. I’m just going to keep enjoying what I’m doing and hopefully I get there sooner than later.
Oklahoma City just re-signed Serge Ibaka. What are your thoughts on keeping him and what do you think is going to happen to James Harden?
I’m happy for Serge. He deserves every penny of it. He works so hard and it’s just a joy to see how much he’s grown. We’ve grown together as a group but Serge has worked so much on his game and he’s got that confidence and once you get that confidence and opportunity in this league, of course everybody knows you can play, but he’s worked to maintain that level and his confidence is sky high. He deserves it and James deserves whatever he’s going to get. Hopefully, we can get him locked in and move forward with our team and get better.
What’s going to stand out as fuel over the past few months: The Finals loss or the Olympic gold medal?
I think this summer, I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum. Winning a gold medal and losing in the Finals. I’ve felt losing and winning. It felt good to win the gold medal but I learned a lot by losing in the Finals and just going through every single obstacle throughout the season. The ups and downs. I can learn a lot more from losing and going through tough times rather than just winning it and going from there. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to the season and getting better from Day One. And we’ll see what happens.
How have you been able to keep going at this pace? You played all offseason in those exhibition games, went into a lockout shortened season, the Finals, then the Olympics, now you’re promoting a movie. Do you get any rest?
I rest. I’m blessed by God that he’s keeping me healthy and keeping me focused on what I have to do. But I’ll be fine. I just got to pace myself and know when I need to take rest. That is one thing I need to work on, knowing when I need to chill out and just sit down and relax.
Will you play any ball between now and the start of camp?
I’m sure I’ll get some work in. I’m not sure if I’ll play one of them games or anything like that. I just have to work out and be ready.