It's All In The Game: Super Sonic

It’s 90 minutes before tipoff, and Kevin Durant is sitting all by himself midcourt on the scorer’s 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 night’s 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, it’s a dream come true,” Durant told 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, it’s a great organization…I can’t ask for anything better.”

It’s true, life can’t get any better for the Washington, DC native - a former University of Texas standout, who was picked second overall in last June’s 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 Seattle’s most affluent communities.

But with big dollars comes big responsibilities.

By far the most gifted player on his team’s 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 year’s end.

That is a big load for anyone to carry, especially for a scrawny 19-year-old kid who still lives with his mom.

“That’s 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 doesn’t show it. He looks every reporter in the eye and politely answers every question.

“It’s something, I knew coming in I had to do,” said Durant. “Each and every game I’m getting better and better at it. You really can’t get out of it, its something you have to deal with.”

“I think he’s done a wonderful job,” added KD’s 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, KD’s 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.

“He’s 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 he’s doing it all, he’s rebounding the ball. But he’s been tremendous - the sky’s the limit for him. Even when I’m done playing I’ll 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 he’s looked at as the future of the NBA, but he refuses to believe his own hype.

“I’m blessed to be here in this position,” Durant said humbly. “You know, I can’t 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.”