Its 90 minutes before tipoff, and Kevin Durant is sitting all by himself midcourt on the scorers table inside Key Arena.
A few of his Sonics teammates like Luke Ridnour and Damien Wilkins are casually putting up jumpers, warming up for that nights match against the visiting (and struggling) New York Knicks.
Directly in front of him, the Sonics dance team is practicing a routine. Though his eyes are pointed in their direction, Durant is hardly paying attention. Instead, the innocent 19-year-old rookie sits there, deep in thought, still trying to soak in the fact that he is actually an NBA player.
Everytime I see that NBA logo, its a dream come true, Durant told AllHipHop.com prior to the game. You know I pray every night and I thank God for this position he put me in. Seattle is a great place to be in, I have great teammates, its a great organization I cant ask for anything better.
Its true, life cant get any better for the Washington, DC native - a former University of Texas standout, who was picked second overall in last Junes draft. That summer, Nike dished out a cool $60 million for KD to rock their sneakers for the next seven years. Durant also struck lucrative deals with EA Sports and Gatorade. He owns a $2.4 million mansion in Mercer Island one of Seattles most affluent communities.
But with big dollars comes big responsibilities.
By far the most gifted player on his teams roster, Durant is asked to carry the majority of the scoring load he leads the team in points at 19.6 per game. Kevin is asked to be the focal point of the team on and off the court. He is asked to try to save a franchise that is in danger of being relocated to Oklahoma City by years end.
That is a big load for anyone to carry, especially for a scrawny 19-year-old kid who still lives with his mom.
Thats always a hard situation where he is being looked at as the face of the franchise, you know, be the savior and things like that. Knicks guard Quentin Richardson told us. From the outside looking in, it looks like he is handling it pretty well and doing a good job at it.
The pressures and the infinite media requests have done little to faze Durant. He understands the game. He estimates he gets asked the same questions two or three times daily. But if he is annoyed, he doesnt show it. He looks every reporter in the eye and politely answers every question.
Its something, I knew coming in I had to do, said Durant. Each and every game Im getting better and better at it. You really cant get out of it, its something you have to deal with.
I think hes done a wonderful job, added KDs teammate Kurt Thomas. To be as young he is and deal with this much exposure, I definitely take my hat off to him. It just shows how well his parents have done with bringing him up and how humble he is as a human being.
Mild-mannered and humble off the court, Kevin is an absolute beast on it. Once you see Durant play, you understand where all the hype is coming from. Despite his slender 6-10 frame, Durant is ultra-deceptive with the rock, getting through the Knicks D with ease. In the third quarter, he broke free for a fast break, where he effortlessly glided in for a Sports Center-worthy, one-hand jam.
With a minute left and the game on the line, KD calmly knocked down a three to give Seattle an 86-83 lead. With New York missing a three at the buzzer, KDs jump shot proved to be the winning basket.
After the game, Durant was hardly gloating about his game-winning three. Thomas, the 13-year NBA vet, had to do the talking for him.
Hes been big for us all year, been giving us 20 points a night, said Thomas, as Durant got dressed just two feet away. I mean hes doing it all, hes rebounding the ball. But hes been tremendous - the skys the limit for him. Even when Im done playing Ill still be watching him
As Thomas raved about him, Durant just kept getting dressed. Although he stayed quiet, you could tell he was listening, and you could tell he appreciated the words. He knows hes looked at as the future of the NBA, but he refuses to believe his own hype.
Im blessed to be here in this position, Durant said humbly. You know, I cant take this for granted. So, I just keep thanking God, and I think that keeps me grounded, just knowing this can be taken away from me at anytime.