The television cameras don’t show this, but when Durant finishes another night of work — another big win, another big scoring night — he retires to the locker room and peels off his jersey. In uniform, he has no visible tattoos; they’re all covered up. But in here, you can see the six-inch block letters stretching across his shoulders: “MARYLAND.”
“It reminds me that every time I step on the floor, I’m carrying all those people with me,” Durant says.
Where he’s from couldn’t be more different from where he is. Born in Washington and raised around Prince George’s County, Durant will be a centerpiece in this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, entering the festivities ranked second in the league in scoring. More important, his Thunder team is tied with the Miami Heat for the league’s best record.
He’s doing it all from quiet, quaint Oklahoma City, where professional basketball didn’t even exist five years ago. In many ways, it’s nothing like the place he was reared. In others, it’s the same.
“I’m used to big buildings, lot of people, lot of cars, lot of traffic, lots of things going on,” he said.
But for Durant, everything still revolves around basketball. Then and now, that’s all that matters. “I’m like a chameleon. I adapt to my situation,” he said. “It’s very slowed down here. I like it that way. I’m a guy that’s very reserved, quiet and shy myself.”
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No one in the NBA questions how good Durant is. The more intriguing debate is: How good will he be? Already among the game’s elite, the 6-foot-9 Durant is in his fifth season. He’s improved year to year — month to month, really — and presents a unique challenge for opposing teams.
“I don’t think there’s been a Kevin Durant. Ever,” Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a comparison. Unless you say George Gervin — but taller.
“He’s 7 feet tall and he’s running around like a two-guard. He can handle the ball, he can take you off the dribble, he can post you up, he shoots over you. You can’t trap him because he sees right over you. I don’t think in the years that I’ve coached and played . . . there’s ever been a more difficult guy to prepare for. You really feel like you’re wasting your time doing it. He’s going to probably score anyway.”
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As a child, Durant had no problem entertaining himself. He’d go to his grandmother’s house, race to the same spot, plop himself on the floor and disappear.
“It was just a penny and a clothespin,” said his mother, Wanda Pratt. “That’s what he was playing with. And he’d spend hours — I mean, hours and hours and hours — just sitting there, playing with a penny and a clothespin.”