2012 Olympics: Kevin Durant’s father cheers from afar after bumpy journey back into his son’s life
By Matt Breen,
Wayne Pratt leaned forward on his burgundy leather sofa, his thick-rimmed glasses trained on the television in front of him.
“Run, run, run,” he shouted as if his words could be heard in London, a few thousand miles from his Annapolis apartment.
Watching with a few friends and co-workers, Pratt pointed toward the big-screen television as the replays showed his son’s beautifully crafted pass. He laughed as it showed different angles of James’s dunk.
But for Pratt and Durant, it wasn’t always this way. When Pratt was 23 years old, he was already a father of two. He says he wasn’t ready for the responsibilities. Around Durant’s first birthday, Pratt deserted the family, leaving behind his wife, Wanda, and sons Kevin and Tony.
“I felt like I was immature, selfish, I was young. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” said Pratt, now 46. “But my sons helped me realize how important it was to be in their lives by always wanting me to be around.”
Wanda Durant (her maiden name) sits courtside at most Oklahoma City Thunder games and is regularly interviewed by major media outlets. Meantime, Pratt is a lesser known figure who said he’s happy with the simple life he lives.
It took Pratt nearly a decade to seek forgiveness from his two sons and worked out a decent relationship with his now ex-wife. He said Wanda was always a positive person and strong enough to raise two sons.
While his father was gone, Durant spent most of his time at Seat Pleasant Recreation Center. There, he met Taras Brown, who taught him basketball, coached his AAU team and became known as his godfather.
“He was there when I wasn’t there, you know what I mean. And I continually thank him for that, because he didn’t have to do that,” Pratt said. “He did the things that most men wouldn’t do; I thought that was very noble of him and selflessness that he showed.”
Upon re-entering his sons’ lives, Pratt said there wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do for them. He believed there were things he needed to teach them that only a man could. By the time Durant was in high school, Pratt and his son traveled the country together to various basketball tournaments and showcases.
“I just gave them everything I had; I mean, I emptied the tank,” Pratt said. “There wasn’t a place I wouldn’t go; there wasn’t nothing I wouldn’t do. Wherever I needed to be, I would go.”
Despite his son reeling in $25 million a year as one of the NBA’s marquee names, Pratt still works as a U.S. Capitol Police officer at the Library of Congress. He’s often recognized for his likeness to his son and carries trading cards to give to children. He enjoys the daily interaction with co-workers and the center’s guests.
“He’s still working. He didn’t want to quit his job once I made it to the NBA,” Durant said. “That’s kind of special. He always wants to support me, but he always wants to do something he loves.”
While Pratt watched the game from his apartment, Wanda watched from the stands in London. Pratt took off from work so he could be in Oklahoma City for the NBA Finals and said his bosses had been flexible with allowing him to do so. He thought an lengthy trip to London would be asking too much.
“I’m not special; I don’t want to be special, I just want to be Wayne,” said Pratt. “That’s Kevin’s life and I’m happy that I could help him get to that point, but I like that little space that I have, and I enjoy it.”
Inspired by what Brown did for his son, Pratt began volunteering a few years ago with the basketball team at Southern High School in Anne Arundel County. He’s currently the head coach of the junior varsity team and an assistant on the varsity.
When assistant coach Kyle McNett first met Pratt, he thought he was just another coach. He didn’t brag about who his son was. After the team’s first win last season, Coach Will Maynard said Pratt called Durant, who addressed the team over a speaker phone.
Last month, before the U.S. basketball team played an exhibition at Verizon Center, Pratt and Durant got together for lunch in Washington. As Durant took his time to accommodate the inevitable autograph seekers, Pratt stepped aside and marveled at his son.
“It’s never too late to be your kid’s father; it’s never too late,” Pratt said. “You have to try, we all make mistakes. But, you have to get back in there and fight. These young men really need us.”
Rick Maese contributed to this report from London.
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