Basketball legend Kevin Durant returned Thursday to the rec center basketball court in the Washington suburbs where he played as a child 20 years ago.
Voted the most valuable player of this year’s NBA Finals, the towering small forward is known the world over as “KD.” But in the Seat Pleasant Activity Center, where he was greeted by a crowd of campers, young players and community members, he’s always been “Kevin.”
“We lean on each other in this building,” Durant said.
Echoing a theme he sounded just after his Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2017 championship, when he told the world that his hometown fans had been “riding with me” throughout the playoffs, Durant added, “I keep bringing Seat Pleasant and Prince George’s County wherever I go.”
Before entering the gym, Durant starred in an hour-long parade that snaked through Seat Pleasant (estimated population: 4,742) as part of Prince George’s first-ever “Kevin Durant Day.”
To the cheers of hundreds lining the streets, he sat tall in the rear of a convertible, cradled his championship trophy and signed T-shirts and sneakers handed over the rope line.
It was perhaps his most visible return home since achieving basketball superstardom, although Durant has kept close ties, even from afar.
In May, he donated nearly $60,000 for new basketball courts at the activity center. He’s also given sports equipment to local teams and is the name behind Team Durant, an amateur team for children and teenagers.
Thursday’s celebration was supposed to include an afternoon festival featuring food and product vendors.
But on Wednesday, Seat Pleasant officials postponed the festival due to “unforeseen circumstances and scheduling conflicts,” said Sharron Lipford, director of public engagement for the city. Roughly 10,000 people had reserved free tickets for the festival, which was to take place at a park near the activity center.
The fans, young and old, who turned out for Durant seemed unbothered by the change in plans.
Eight-year-old Jackson Gloster, sporting a black Team Durant jersey, said he had never walked in a parade before and wondered what Durant would be like in person.
Farther along the parade route, Florence Giles stood at the foot of her lawn to catch a glimpse of the man her children had known growing up. She figured that this was a good excuse to hold off on going to work.
Durant’s return showed the younger fans “what you can do, how you can succeed,” Giles said.
Durant’s mother, Wanda, whom he tearfully lauded three years ago as “the real MVP,” had a similar lesson for the young campers and players gathered at the activity center. She had ridden in the parade as well, where enthusiastic cheers of “Wanda! Wanda!” suggested her son was not the only celebrity in town.
Calling the gym a former “refuge for my children,” Wanda Durant, who raised two boys as a single parent and sometimes went to bed hungry so they could eat, had to hold back her tears as she spoke.
“This is a sacred place for us,” she said. “Sometimes you have to work really hard, and you don’t get rewarded until 20 years later.”