KD delivers MVP speech for the ages

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Kevin Durant’s complete Kia MVP acceptance speech

OKLAHOMA CITY – This was no standard-issue award news conference held in a sterile gathering space inside the receiving player’s home arena in front of media, family and friends.

This was a music-blaring, carnival-like civic celebration attended by the city’s mayor and the state’s governor; a crowning of sorts in which a thousand or so members of this close-knit community felt compelled to watch the indoor proceeding outside on video screens in the parking lot of the team’s original training facility during the middle of an unusually warm Tuesday afternoon. A giant banner draped the side of the building with a photo of Durant surrounded by children and big, bold letters that read: “OKC’s MVP”.

They arrived in droves because around here, Kevin Durant, the 2013-14 Kia Most Valuable Player, is one of their own.

Best of all, Durant considers himself one of them. He delivered an impassioned acceptance speech for the ages: thoughtful, sincere, genuine. Without the use of note cards, he spoke from the heart through a mixture of smiles, sniffles and tears.

“I don’t know why I’m crying so much,” Durant said midway through his 30-minute speech.

Wearing a blue suit and black shoes with white soles and his now-trademark glasses, Durant, 25, passionately expressed why he thrusts himself into the Oklahoma City community, professed his love and appreciation for his mother and addressed each of his teammates, all of whom were seated to his left on the large stage, with detailed anecdotes of appreciation.

After he was introduced as the MVP, a video was shown on the movie screen behind the stage. It showed police officers and teachers and children and arena workers praising Durant’s decency, and even at times his basketball prowess. It showed Durant active in the community, most prominently his grief-stricken walk through the devastation left behind by last spring’s tornadoes that leveled the nearby town of Moore. Durant donated $1 million to the relief fund and made himself a genuine fixture of the relief effort.

But why?

“Well, like they said in the video, there’s so many things trying to bring us down here in Oklahoma, from natural disasters to the Oklahoma City bombing,” Durant said. “There’s just so many things trying to bring us down, and I feel as though us being here as the Thunder, we just try to shine a bright light, bring life to people. And having something like this represents what we’re about. We fall down, we fall down, we get up. We fall down, we get up. We may finish second, but we keep fighting until we finish first.

“That says a lot about this city: Perfect place for me. And I enjoy…”

He had to stop right there. Applause overtook the cavernous room that used to serve as the team’s practice gym when it arrived from Seattle in 2008. He continued.

“I enjoy being a part of something like this, knowing that when we come into the arena, they’re going to love you no matter what — Losing by 25 in the playoffs …”

Laughter erupted at Durant’s reference to Monday’s lopsided home loss to the Clippers in Game 1 of their second-round series.

“… Or winning a Game 7 on the home floor — they’re going to always feel the same way about us. You don’t want to take that for granted, because the grass is not always greener on the other side and you need to learn to appreciate these wonderful people here.”

Those comments, of course, will be clipped-and-saved for two summers from now when Durant’s contract is up and he becomes an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. The MVP award is sweet, but it can also be cruel. Durant and the Thunder barely escaped a burly first-round series with the Grizzlies.

If they don’t get by the Clippers, a 57-win team built on All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and an excellent cast around them, Durant’s season will be considered a bust. He will be criticized for failing to lead the team back to the Finals. He and co-star Russell Westbrook‘s relationship will again be micro-analyzed and coach Scott Brooks will be fired multiple times by the media.

But in this very moment, all we can do is judge Durant by his actions and his words, which only the most cynical can argue are not authentic or sincere.

“One of the things that I’m proud of in regards of the players, coaches and the staff that I’m fortunate enough to work with is that we mean what we say,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. “These guys really do care about each other, there’s an authenticity to it. I think it’s a sign of tremendous strength and leadership on the part of Kevin to be able to share his emotions in today’s society where sometimes that is not looked at with the strength that it should be. But it doesn’t surprise me because he’s an authentic person and when you go through the ups and downs that we have as an organization, everybody wears the same scars, and I think it brings people closer together.”

By name, Durant singled out his teammates, looked at them and thanked each one for something different they do that he said makes him better. He started with the veterans, then thanked the young guys. Only one player remained.

“I know you guys think I forgot Russ,” Durant said, drawing more laughs from the crowd. “But I can speak all night about Russell. An emotional guy who will run through a wall for me, and I don’t take it for granted those days where I just want to tackle you, and tell you to snap out of it sometimes. But I know there’s days you want to do the same thing with me. I love you, man, I love you.

“A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player and I’m the first to have your back through it all. Just stay the person you are. Everybody loves you here, I love you.”

He looked back at his entire team: “I know we have a bigger goal in my mind, we have a tough game tomorrow, but this means the world to me that you guys are here celebrating with me.”

Also there to celebrate was Durant’s mother, Wanda Pratt, who was seated in front. Durant delivered the most emotional moment of his speech, one that carries so much weight as to why Durant is the humble superstar he is, why he immerses himself in the Oklahoma City community and seems to be one of the few athletes committed to staying where he is.

“And last my mom,” Durant said as he sniffled and his voice cracked. “I don’t think you know what you did. You had my brother when you were 18 years old. Three years later I came out. The odds were stacked against us, single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old. Everybody told us we weren’t supposed to be here. We moved from apartment to apartment by ourselves. One of the best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment, no bed, no furniture and we just all sat in the living room and just hugged each other because we thought we made it.

“When something good happens to you, I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here,” Durant continued, speaking directly to his mom. “And you wake me up in the middle night in the summer time, making me run up the hill, making me do push-ups, screaming at me from the sidelines at my games at 8 or 9 years old. We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe, you kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry, you sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”

47 Comments

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  2. So Inspired! says:

    Thank you for showing what being so humbled looks like! How inspiring for the up-and-coming players to see that even with all the fame you don’t forget your beginnings! Can’t wait to share these special 27 minutes with my son, a future MVP as well, to help inspire him and his team! Thank you, KD!

  3. Wow. As a speech coach, I want to share this speech with all each of my clients. The words are inspirational. The delivery quietly powerful. And he is fully in the moment. I write about this here: http://www.greenroomspeakers.com/speaking-lesson-from-kevin-durant-be-present/.

  4. Peter scanlan says:

    I came upon this speech accidentally. What an amazing man. Humble, humorous and heartwarming. Congratulations to him and all who have played a part in his life. You deserve this speech and the man!!

  5. KD Fan via NYC/VA says:

    Wow – in an arena where humility and respect are sometimes forgotten, this young man has proven to be a true inspiration! So endearing and so humble, it’s only fitting he earned the MVP title, Most Valuable “Person” because that heartfelt speech transcends just playing on the court! Remembering all who help you along your journey is so important. Kudos to you, KD! I’m truly an official KD/OKC Fan!

  6. Reblogged this on natesnewsblog13 and commented:
    This speech has made me a huge KD fan! Talk about an athlete being an inspiration and a great role model. Definitely deserved the NBA MVP award. I’ll be happy with either OKC or the LA Clippers winning the series.

  7. leborn jaems says:

    who the hell’s cutting onions man?!

  8. okc2014 says:

    His speech was amazing, heartfelt and I could relate to everthing he said about his life growing up. I’m so glad I got to high five Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder this season after a Hawks game! It was amazing. exciting, and they were so humble!! These guys are so tall!!! Congrats to Kevin Durant, he will win many more. Stop reading too much into this people, Russell Westbrook was proud of him too. He’s upset because he lost against the Clippers. Make-up time!!!!!!

  9. Lee says:

    wow. great speech.
    Hope they can win a title together.

    if they don’t, is OK too. Great person KD!

  10. Paul says:

    Wow. That had me in tears. Congrats, KD. You deserve it.

  11. Shake says:

    Bless you man!

  12. Celtic533 says:

    Why the hell wasnt Kareem Abdul Jabbar mentioned by the emcee in the beginning?He has the most MVP trophies in history he should definitely be mentioned in this conversation

  13. Geri Heisey says:

    WOW! What a speech. What a man. What a basketball player. KD your’re the best! And best of all you honor God. God bless you now and always. Nu. 6:24-26
    Congratulations on this award and hope you get the ring soon.

  14. JBlaze says:

    OKC has already won the real championship thanks to all of our great Thunder players, the Thunder organization and, of course, the MVP! Le’ts try not to forget that.

  15. Seanroy says:

    congrats Kd, great player, great speaker,great real model, great MVP

  16. Whapakk says:

    KD is the Best.. On and Off the court!!! Way to go KD, I hope someday me and my kids can watch you play live. We are a thunder family and that’s because of you.. Stay the kind of person you are and you’ll be loved forever!!!
    Congratulations…

  17. Monica says:

    I love me some Kevin Durant! He is such a respectable, humble and courageous young man. I wish him continued blessings and I know his Mother is proud of him and so am I!!! #KevinDurant #LoveHim

  18. Daniel Danielson says:

    This was such an emotional speech that Russ and Clay Bennett were in tears. What a powerful speaker. This man is truly a special human far beyond being a great basketball player.

  19. Rafael jimenez jr says:

    One of the beat speeches i heard and iv heard alot but this one is something special. It made me shred to tears hearing about all he went thru with his family so i congradulate him on his first of many mvps. God bless you KD!

  20. OKc2014 says:

    KD is a true role model athlete, drafted after one year of college by the Sonics. You could tell right away he was destine for greatness and very composed team player. He has been compared to MJ, he is his own man and will only get better……………..

  21. brendan says:

    yo I’m from Montgomery, right next to PG. PG is ghetto af, congrats KD

  22. theholyspectator says:

    all thats left for kd is a ring, unfortunately i dont think hell get one while playin with westbrook

  23. joe barthlow says:

    Please correct “white souls” to “white soles.”

    Otherwise nice article.

  24. KD MVP says:

    He has such a respectable outlook on things. Wish everyone was this humble. Congrats KD!

  25. Tina says:

    God Bless KD for all he is doing and for staying true to who he is. God Bless and great thanks to his mommy for guiding and protecting him and his brother. He is a stellar young man and a testament to all the lessons she has taught him. Come to think of it, she should probably go into business teaching other young single women how to raise men because that is what she has done. She has raised men – no small feat intoday’s world.

  26. GoodjobGuy says:

    There’s a ninja cutting onions somewhere in my room, no doubt.

  27. JDL says:

    LOL Im watching Russel Westbrook in the back and he never seems to show any happiness or love for Durant but I did see jealous eyes. LOL I dont think their chemistry is gonna work for to much longer but in the long run that might benefit Durant and the Thunder.

  28. Drago says:

    A true superstar and a great human being I wish you rings and MVP’S.

  29. kingfisher says:

    Job well done, but still incomplete. Get the Finals MVP too. And always remain a good role model to the kids.

  30. yy says:

    I don’t know what to say, man that was incredible

  31. LaVar Henry says:

    Great speech. No words needed. Great speech.

  32. LaVar Henry says:

    Great speech… No words needed… Great speech

  33. bryan wright says:

    Woke up and saw Durant’s speech on ESPN at 4am this morning.Brought tears from my eyes as he spoke abut his mother and brother.As he said she is the true MVP.
    Continue to be humble,and never forget where you came from.God Bless you and your family

  34. Irene Adler says:

    Let’s go KD. Let’s go Thunder. I know you can do it. Is anything impossible?

  35. Is it me or was Westbrook sitting behind him looking unimpressed.

  36. Eric says:

    Thank you for honoring others above yourself. Our society puts so much focus on the “MVP’s” that we forget the team, our roots, our experiences that got us to where we are. Kevin Durant you are a real winner to me thank you and may God continue to bless your ability to reach far beyond basketball!

    Blessings!

    Eric

  37. Vinny says:

    To be honest, I really do hope OKC wins it all this year. Yeah, the odds are against them…especially with Durants recent slump, but his speech transcends the NBA and really hits at home the message of “thank those who helped you become the person you are today”. Its not even about success but rather, knowing that even though you may fall down there will be people there to pick you up…that even though times may seem dark, people are there to help and pick you right back up. KD…this speech speaks volumes about you, so thank you for being so humble and sincere….you remind the rest of us to stay the same…

  38. ziv says:

    … … … 2 ol me bro’s & sis’s out zer , 2 ol me homies , 2 ol me dogz’ in de house … if u guys ever get stuck for half an hour som wer … if u dudes get stuck in traffic / bus / sub / work / street / or even home … if u just find z self stuck n’ bored 2 death & u thinkin’ : ” what the F’ me gonna’ do ?” – “how the S’ me gonna’ waste z next half hour ?” … well instead of watchen’ another stupid show on z tele’ , instead of another video game / snack / smoke / cold 1 / or instead of ol of em’ mixed 2gether … instead of ol dat BS – just take half an hour & press dis link dogz :

    http://www.nba.com/video/channels/award_nominees/2014/05/06/20140506-durant-accepts-nba-mvp.nba/

    … If u do so , u’ll c me brother !
    … If u do so , u’ll c a 25 year old afro-American kid , giving a speech 2 millions of viewers , wiz no paper , no notes , no hidden teleprompter , no speech writer – nothin’ ! . nothin’ but heart ! u will c a kid – a man – talkin’ from the heart … while our leaders need all that stuff when zey try 2 make us listen , dis kid out zer make u wanna’ listen – coz’ dis kid is pure inspiration ! inspiration in action not only words – inspiration in day 2 day life & not only when de camera’s on – inspiration in his true life story & not some edited clip …
    … when zis kid retires he can teach ol dose speech-writers in DC how u really do it … but not zis kid – zis kid will never retire & zis kid won’t write speeches 4 money … zis kid will probably keep playen’ & trainen’ basket-ball as long as he can walk … or even as long as he can breath …

    zis kid is KD the kid !

    zis kid is Kevin Durant – the man !

    Don’t waste u’r times on another addiction homies – listen 2 z man !

    Listen 2 z man !!!!!!!

  39. Rafiq says:

    Fantastic speech…just proves that KD is a real man! Congrats to the MVP! Well deserved.

  40. cshav10 says:

    Kevin Durant has his head screwed on straight, his priorities in the correct order, and he knows what it means to be a teammate in the context of everyone in his life. If you want to learn the true meaning of Team and what it means to be fully connected to other people as a human being, watch the entire speech. Simple and humble, very moving.

    There is no most valuable player on a team. There are only people who give their all – for themselves, for the team, and for their team mates. That Kevin Durant gets this so clearly is wonderful.

    Astonishing player, astonishing man.

  41. Chioma Ozukwe says:

    Great emotional and humble speech. 1 love KD. Congrats

  42. J4CK Nicholson says:

    Keep it up KD. I hope you get your championship soon.

  43. Rod Lee says:

    A leader, superstar, and public figure but still so humble. You deserve everything you have, and still have more blessings to come!

  44. allaroundballer says:

    Im rooting for Clippers and hope they’ll win this year. But this OKC and their MVP, hard to let them down. They’re the only great team with their own draft players – after Spurs. You’ve got to respect that these days

  45. Mapusaga T. Chou-Lee says:

    A great and humble person who rememeber his roots and humble beginning! Congratulations and God bless you, Durant.
    Thank you for being a good role model for all the children of this world.

  46. standard says:

    emotional speech all the way i saw it live and made me cry too