2011 NBA playoffs: Kevin Durant's postseason ride was a family affair
By Michael Lee,
In Oklahoma City — Moments after taking ownership for having “let the city down” in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s disastrous loss in Monday’s Game 4 against Dallas, Kevin Durant walked back onto the court, his head held high, and quickly hugged his grandmother, Barbara Davis, and then his mother. Before Durant could sneak away, Wanda Pratt brought her son in closer and whispered into his left ear: “Don’t put this all on yourself. Keep playing. Keep being you.”
Durant nodded without saying a word, then walked away, hands clinging to the straps of his backpack, without acknowledging his father, Wayne Pratt, his brother, Tony, his representatives, Aaron and Eric Goodwin, and other close friends and associates. His season would officially end two nights later in Dallas.
As Durant made the deepest postseason run of a young career that has already seen him win two scoring titles and a world championship in Turkey, he didn’t have to look far for support. His family was a visible part of the ride, with Durant giving his mother a hug and kiss after scoring 39 points in the Thunder’s Game 7 victory over Memphis in the conference semifinals. His brother and father happened to be standing a few feet behind Jason Kidd when he nailed the decisive three-pointer in the Mavericks’ 112-105 overtime win on Monday. And his mother, grandmother and brother were there in Dallas, where he held his hand over his mouth, stunned, that his season was over.
Thunder games, especially those in Oklahoma City, have always been a family affair, with Durant’s brother living with him throughout the season, his mother a regular seated across from the Thunder bench, and his father visiting whenever he could get time away from his job as a federal police officer.
Wanda Pratt calls Oklahoma City her home away from home and said the community, with its friendly and welcoming residents, has been the perfect fit for her son. “Kevin is a low-key guy. And Oklahoma is a very settled place,” she said. “It just works for his personality.”
Tony Durant, who played college basketball at Towson, said the southern plains couldn’t be more dissimilar to where they grew up in Seat Pleasant. But Durant will remain in Oklahoma City for at least the next five years, committing last summer to an $85 million extension with the Thunder. “It was a tough transition for me, myself, but I learned to adjust and adapt,” Tony Durant said. “Oklahoma has its things, but it’s not D.C. I’m not worried about what’s going on or what’s not. I’m just here to support my brother, regardless of what area I’m in. I don’t care where I am. Me, being his older brother, I’m there to guide him.”
The family has been so recognizable that fans stopped to take pictures with Davis and Wanda Pratt shortly after Game 4. Wanda Pratt lived with Durant during his rookie season in Seattle but decided to let him find his own way in Oklahoma, stopping by to visit from time to time.
The visits have become less frequent, with two kids back home still in high school. But she still tried to make every playoff game — except for Game 1 of the conference finals when she and her mother had other priorities. “We had to see Oprah,” Davis said with a laugh, as the two attended the final taping of Oprah Winfrey’s popular talk show in Chicago.
Family and friends don’t bother looking for a hotel since he has enough space in his nearly 3,500-square-foot mansion to house them all. Gatherings at Durant’s home in upscale Gaillardia are similar to ones he had growing up, with laughter and fellowship only a room away. “From being brought up, we always made it happen,” Tony Durant said. “We’ve been around each other through the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the struggle. We can have 50 people in a three-bedroom and make it happen.”
Durant even has a chef around to make sure that his family doesn’t have to worry about taking care of him. “Granny is not too much about cooking right now. They just spoil me,” Davis said. “They say, ‘You don’t have to worry about that.’ I thank God so much for my grandson.”
After Monday’s loss, Durant saw that his family was there but just didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say. His silent stroll out of the arena was predictable given how much he internalizes each loss and overanalyzes every mistake. When they all gathered at his home later, Durant said he managed to crack a smile but it didn’t help him put the devastation behind him.
“Words can’t say how much I appreciate their support. But that’s probably one out of 200 times I haven’t really talked to them that much after a game,” he said. “They understand. But if they wasn’t there [Monday] night, I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself. It made it a little easier for me. Got home, laughed a little bit, but once you’re by yourself, you think about it.”
‘It’s not all, “Aw, baby” ’
Late in Monday’s game, Mavericks reserve center Brendan Haywood shoved Durant to the ground rather than have Durant throw down a thunderous dunk on him, as he did earlier in the series. When she saw Durant landing hard on his backside, Davis said of her reaction: “Not good. Not good.”
“That’s the part I enjoy about the game, because you’ve got to find out what that person is made of, after that hard foul. If that’s going to deter you from carrying on, or make you push forward,” Wayne Pratt said. “Most of the time, he’s going to push forward.”
Wanda Pratt managed to keep it all in perspective with the understanding that her son is a 22-year-old who doesn’t have everything figured out yet.
“I believe Kevin is going to be a great player,” she said this week. “It was really tough for me to watch Kevin get so frustrated, but we’ve got to keep encouraging him. Sometimes, you’re going to have bumps in the road and you’ve got to adjust. That’s how I talk to him. It’s not all, ‘Aw, baby.’ Sometimes, he needs that, but right now, he doesn’t need that. Sometimes, you just need to get up.”
Durant agreed that it is part of the process.
“It’s how you bounce back and how you get through adversity that builds you up,” Durant said. “If it was easy, you’d see a lot more people doing it. You really hate these type of times, but you’ve got to really enjoy them, because once you get there, it’s going to be even sweeter. It’s kind of bittersweet, I guess.”
And once he gets there, his family will be with him. “If Kevin worked at the post office, we’d still be supportive of him. We’ll always be together,” Wanda Pratt said. “This is what family does. It doesn’t matter what profession Kevin would’ve gone into. We will always be family. And we will always support one another. It just happens to be on this grand stage, so the support has always been there.”