In an interview with Logan Murdock of the San Jose Mercury News published Monday, Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant discussed a number of issues, including race and his ability to make an impact as an NBA player.
Durant told Murdock he has found his identity since joining the Warriors and mentioned that he is now more aware of the difficulties black men face:
"Finally waking up, to be honest. Just kind of seeing how rough it is for an average black man, you know what I'm saying? And on top of that, a black man makes one mistake ... I see how far we get pushed down. For me, I kind of grew up in this basketball world, whereas my talent kind of overrides what I look like.
"I didn't have it as rough when it comes to that, as far as social or systematic oppression or any social issues. They didn't really apply to me because I could put a ball in a basket. Just me saying that kind of woke me up a little bit, like 'Damn, that's all I'm good for?' Like, if I wasn't a basketball player, what kind of man would they look at me as, you know what I'm saying?"
While Durant feels black people often face an uphill climb based solely on the color of their skin, he is hopeful he can serve as an inspiration of sorts:
"In terms of what value can I bring to you outside of playing basketball. I bring a lot of value to people as far as how I treat them, how I encourage them, how I just try to be a good person to them. I feel there's like a lot of black men that have those traits, but they often just get stereotyped or judged off of one incident or not given a second chance.
"So if I find something that's empowering to people that look like me, I just try to send a subtle message that I got your back and I hear you and I try to inspire you as much as I can from just being in this world as a black man coming up, even though I was looked at and viewed a little differently for it. But I'm still a black man. I understand where you're coming from."
Durant was also asked about his upbringing in Washington D.C. and acknowledged that some of his friends got swept up in the drug culture.
Now that Durant has managed to emerge as an eight-time All-Star, NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP, he is hopeful that he can help kids take a more positive path than some of those he grew up with:
"You feel for those people who don't know what they're passionate about, don't have any true inspiration around them, true role models to look at. That's why I feel like it's so important for me to represent where I come from because for kids, just to say, you know, 'He walked on the same streets I walked on, he playing on TV. He on the cover of GQ. People know who he is. He out there actually doing something he love every day, in front of millions of people.' I know for sure that it inspired somebody. Even if they don't play ball, even if they're just trying to look for a way to get out of Maryland or get out of PG County. Well, we got somebody who did it, we're seeing it every day, and it makes me just walk around with pride."
Durant also discussed his admiration for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his social advocacy, as well as how he was treated after leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors in free agency.
Although Durant's free-agent decision was unpopular in OKC, it led to his first career championship and arguably raised his national profile even more.