Who is Kevin Durant?
Surely, the Olympics-ingesting public would like to know. If teenage swimmers and skeet shooters can garner full profiles for their exploits leading up to and in London, why not multi-millionaire basketball players whose global superstardom transcends the NBA?
Or did I just unwittingly answer my own question within the same question?
Olympics or not, Durant's rise from preps to pros hasn't been given quite the same treatment to which some of his Team USA compatriots (e.g., LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony) have been privy.
Of course, Durant's public persona can't and doesn't quite measure up, perhaps because he hasn't gone fame-seeking, per se.
And not just because he plays in one of the NBA's smallest markets with the Oklahoma City Thunder, either.
The Durantula's Early Days
Long before Durant was a three-time scoring champ and one of the three best basketball players on the planet, he was "just" another kid honing his game at rec centers just outside of Washington, D.C. Little did anyone know that the Durantula, one of four children born to Wanda and Wayne Pratt (his parents) and raised by Wanda and Barbara Davis (his grandmother), would grow up to be arguably the finest hooper out of D.C. since Elgin Baylor.
He'll get no argument about being the best in his family, at the very least. His older brother Tony—no 6'7" slouch in his own right—played at Butler Community College before transferring to Towson in Maryland.
Aside from his kin, Durant grew up with and played alongside his fair share of basketball prodigies. He and Phoenix Suns forward Michael Beasley have been close friends since childhood, and they were AAU royalty as teammates on the PG Jaguars in Prince George's County, Md.
It was with the Jaguars that Durant first began to sport the No. 35, in honor of his former AAU coach and mentor Charles Craig, who was murdered at the age of 35.
Beasley later went on to play for the D.C. Assault, while Durant took up with the D.C. Blue Devils. That gave him the opportunity to ball with North Carolina Tar Heel and current Denver Nuggets star Ty Lawson, with whom Durant also would play during his one-year stint at the famed Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.
And when Durant returned to the Free State to finish up his high school career at Montrose Christian, he did so with former Maryland Terrapin and New Orleans Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez by his side. The two of them went on to lead Montrose Christian to a win over Oak Hill that year.
The Making of a Superstar
Prior to that, though, Durant trained under the auspices of Taras Brown, an AAU coach at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center near his mother's home. According to Chip Brown of The Dallas Morning News, rather than play pick-up games like most kids, Durant would spend his time doing drills in gyms, studying the finer points of the game and running sprints when Brown and his mother weren't satisfied with his efforts.
That physical and mental training began to shine through when, prior to his sophomore year at National Christian High School, Durant sprouted five inches, growing into a 6'8" forward who retained all the skills he'd developed as a 6'3" guard.
That growth spurt grabbed the attention of coaches at Oak Hill and college scouts across the country. Before long, Durant was one of the foremost recruits in the nation, rivaled only by fellow Class of 2006 standout (and since-oft-injured) big man Greg Oden.
Despite offers from nearly every elite college program, Durant chose to play his college ball at Texas, with Longhorns assistant and Maryland native Russell Springman playing a crucial role in the process.
The Horns were hardly world-beaters in 2006-07, finishing third in the Big 12 and losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament. But Durant, for his part, was spectacular, averaging 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists. 1.9 blocks and 1.9 steals on the way to becoming the first freshman to be named the consensus National Player of the Year.
The NBA Comes Calling
Not bad for a year's work, to say the least. That was enough to make Durant the No. 2 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft of the then-Seattle SuperSonics.
All he did was average 20.3 points to lead all rookies in scoring and earn the 2007-08 Rookie of the Year Award, albeit for a Sonics team that won just 20 games and moved to Oklahoma City the very next season.
Out went Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, and in came Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green, but the wins were somewhat slow to follow. Thunder head coach P.J. Carlesimo was fired after a 1-12 start to the 2008-09 season, opening the door for current coach Scott Brooks to take over.
Along the way, the Durantula began to work himself into the mix with Team USA. He wasn't chosen for the squad that won gold in Beijing in 2008, but he did participate in the 2007 USA Basketball training camps in Las Vegas before doing the same in 2009 and eventually earning a spot with the 2010 team.
This was right around the time that Durant's star truly began to take off. He played in his first All-Star Game, cracked his first All-NBA team, won his first scoring title and made his first playoff appearance during the 2009-10 season, with James Harden joining the bench as a rookie. That campaign also saw Durant set the modern NBA record for most consecutive games with at least 25 points scored when he sustained the feat for 29 straight contests.
While LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire were dominating the headlines as free agents the following summer, Durant announced via Twitter that he'd signed a five-year, $86 million extension to stick with the Thunder.
Exstension for 5 more years wit the #thunder....God Is Great, me and my family came a long way...I love yall man forreal, this a blessing!— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 7, 2010
Domination, at Home and Abroad
Shortly thereafter, Durant and OKC teammate Westbrook led Team USA to the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey, its first in the event since 1994. Durant emerged as the squad's go-to scorer and was honored as the tournament MVP for his efforts.
Upon his return, Durant sustained his reign as an All-Star, All-NBA performer and league scoring champ while leading the Thunder to the Western Conference finals. This after GM Sam Presti traded Green to the Boston Celtics in a deal for bruising big man Kendrick Perkins during the season.
Once the lockout came and went in 2011, Durant went on to establish himself as arguably the second-best player in the NBA (behind LeBron) and moved one giant step closer to his first championship. His Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals at the end of a season in which Durant maintained his string of accolades and was named the MVP of the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.
That brings us to the present day, where we can more readily answer the question of, who is Kevin Durant?
As it happens, he's many things—a phenomenal basketball talent, a loving son who greets his mother courtside after most of his NBA games, a seemingly level-headed human being who's more concerned with improving and winning than with seeking fame and fortune.
What he isn't yet is a champion, in the Olympics or the NBA. The former figures to be a foregone conclusion before too long, thanks to the collective strength of coach Mike Krzyzewski's Team USA.
The latter, on the other hand, will have to wait until next June, at the earliest. Though, judging by the trajectory of Durant's burgeoning basketball career, it's only a matter of time before he hoists the Larry O'Brien Trophy for himself.
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