Kevin Durant, a forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player on Tuesday. When he accepted the award, Durant chose not focus on his accomplishments or all-star talent.
During his 25-minute speech, Durant fought back tears while expressing his gratitude toward everyone who was behind him since he was drafted into the league at the age of 18. "I had so much help," he said. "I had so many people believe in me when I didn't believe in myself. "
Even though he broke Michael Jordan's record by scoring at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games this season, Durant remains humble. As any smart leader, he knows he hasn't achieved his success on his own. In particular, he gave the credit to his mother. "When something good happens to you, I don't know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here," he said.
Below, read about Durant's motivation, gratitude, and what drives him to play basketball.
Love and basketball
Durant said he first started playing basketball in second grade with his older brother while living outside of Washington, D.C. "When I [first] walked into the gym I fell in love with it. But I didn't fall in love just because it was me playing. I fell in love with it because I got guys like [my Thunder teammates] who push me every single day to be the best player I could be." Ultimately though, he realizes life is more than just shooting hoops: "Basketball is just a platform for me to inspire people," he said.
Durant did not take credit for his MVP honors. Instead, he thanked each of his teammates individually for making him better, motivating him, and supporting him as a player and a person. He gave a special shout-out to the younger players: "You guys make me so much better without even knowing. When I need an extra push, you guys are there," he said. "I'm not always the best leader, I'm not always the best player, I don't always shoot the best in the games, but the little handshakes we do before the game get me going."
Every company, leader, or sports franchise needs loyal supporters, and Durant showed his gratitude for all of Thunder's die-hards. "Beautiful fans of Oklahoma City: I can't say enough about you guys. All the support you give to our team. The home-court advantage that we have is the best I've ever seen. We disappoint you guys sometimes, but we try our best every single night," he said. "We want to win a championship for you guys. This city, all it wants is for us to be ourselves. It loves us how we are. We're all a work in progress as men, and you still love us and I thank you so much for embracing us."
The real MVP
The most emotional part of Durant's speech was dedicated to his mother. "The odds were stacked against us--you were a single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old. Everyone told us we weren't supposed to be here," he said. "You'd wake me up in the middle of the night in the summertime, making me run up a hill, making me do push-ups, and screaming at me from the sidelines of 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 and 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."