“Mama Durant,” the mother of NBA star and MVP Kevin Durant, told a crowd of students playing in a D.C. Hoop Dreams tournament Sunday to work as hard off the court as they do on the court, and never give up on their dreams.
“A lot of you told me you wanted to be like my son,” said Wanda Pratt, whom Durant praised recently as “the real MVP” for all that she did as a single mom, raising him and his brother in Prince George’s County.
“He is a really good basketball player, but he’s a really good person,” she said. “Be like him not only on the basketball court. He listened to me.
“He was always respectful of his teachers and adults in his life.”
Pratt spoke during the “Life Skills Through Hoop Dreams” youth basketball tournament at Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School in Northwest Washington.
The tournament, which included more than 150 young people, ages 8 and up, was sponsored by the D.C. Housing Authority’s Choice Voucher Program.
As Pratt walked into Dunbar, young players ran to meet her. Parents and children stood in awe. Among a crowd of students — many of whom live in subsidized housing — Pratt was a walking reality of a hoops dream.
“We weren’t supposed to be here,” he said. “You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate and [you] went to sleep hungry. . . . You’re the real MVP.”
Pratt, who was born in Cheverly, Md., and grew up in Prince George’s, where she lives now, said Sunday that Durant’s speech was touching.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” she said. “I cried. I didn’t know which memories would resonate with him.”
Shannon Wiggins, 16, a 10th-grader at Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, sat at the scoreboard table while Pratt spoke.
“She gave good encouragement and wisdom for the teams,” Wiggins said later. “It could possibly be their mom one day.”
“She encouraged the young people to keep striving for their dreams,” said Semaja Evans, 17, a Potomac High School graduate. “Failure leads to success.”
Jarod Ingram, a ninth-grader at Friendship Woodridge Public Charter School in Northeast Washington, said he was in awe when he met Pratt.
“I like how Kevin Durant told her, ‘You’re the real MVP.’ That encouraged me because I have only my mother, grandmother and sister,” he said. “It helped me maintain.”
Pratt watched from the sideline as the “Miami Heat” faced the “Houston Rockets.” The youth teams of boys and girls, ages 8 to 12, were squaring off in a championship game.
Zaron McCoy, 14, who played shooting guard for the “Orlando Magic,” waited in line to talk with Pratt.
“It was great to meet her,” said McCoy, a 10th-grader at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Md. “She inspired one of the best NBA players, so she inspired me.”