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From his days as the skinny kid on youth teams to his MVP season with the Oklahoma City Thunder to his first NBA Championship with the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant has been an electrifying presence on the basketball court. With two Olympic gold medals, four NBA scoring titles, and an NBA MVP Award, Kevin shows no sign of slowing down. Through every triumph, Kevin has lived his life by the motto “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard,” dedicating himself to becoming the best player on the court and known for remaining humble and kind through it all.
This action-packed and comprehensive biography brings readers onto the court to experience the biggest moments of Kevin Durant’s remarkable career, relays details of his life, and shows his dedication to giving back to his community. Complete with stats and photographs, this book makes the perfect gift for any young sports fan.
HARD WORK AND TALENT
On January 2, 2012, NBA superstar Kevin Durant tweeted, “My favorite quote is ‘Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.’ Following that has helped me reach my goals #WinFromWithin.”
Unlike so many of Kevin’s tweets, this one did not go viral. It has not had as many retweets as, for instance, a playful assurance that he could “destroy” Stephen Curry in H-O-R-S-E from 2009, long before he and Curry would team up on the Golden State Warriors and destroy the rest of the league.
But Kevin Durant’s favorite quotation does much to explain his rise from a skinny kid from Maryland to arguably the NBA’s best player. Even before he reached high school, Kevin once wrote that sentence—“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard”—two hundred times. On his way to play in Charlotte, his coach, Taras “Stink” Brown, made Kevin fill the front and back of four pages of notebook paper with those ten words before he would allow him to play.
Luckily for Kevin, in addition to being hardworking, he is physically gifted. With sneakers on, the Golden State forward stands seven feet tall, eye to eye with many of the league’s biggest centers. Yet he dribbles and shoots like a guard. That skill, uncommon for a forward, is the product of tireless practice since the age of ten, something Kevin undertook with the help of four devoted adults: his mother, Wanda Durant; his grandmother Barbara Davis; and two of his early coaches, Taras Brown and Charles Craig.
Kevin Wayne Durant was born on September 29, 1988, in Suitland, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. Kevin does not share the last name of his parents, Wanda and Wayne Pratt, because Wayne walked out on Kevin; Wanda; and Kevin’s older brother, Tony, when Kevin was not yet one year old. Until he was in high school, Kevin had only one parent. Wanda worked full-time for the US Postal Service in Washington, and dedicated herself completely to her children and to supporting Kevin’s NBA dream.
That dream took time to develop, however. When he was seven years old and already taller than the other kids his age, he played football at the local Boys & Girls Club. One time, the coaches challenged a weaker player: tackle the tall guy or get tackled by others on the team. Kevin, fearing for the smaller kid’s safety, let himself get knocked over. Kevin has always been a nice, mild-mannered guy—maybe too nice for football.
At age eight, Kevin met Taras Brown at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center, a place where Kevin would end up spending much of the next decade. Brown first noticed Kevin, as most people did, because of his height. But after coaching him privately for a few years, he decided that the youngster had genuine talent.
Still, the dream didn’t truly start for Kevin until a few years later, when he led his team to a tournament championship in Florida. That was when he told his mom he wanted to become an NBA player. Wanda Pratt spoke frankly to her son about the hard work it would take, and enlisted Brown to help him get started.
Kevin committed to basketball in a way most ten-year-olds would never imagine. He began practicing at the activity center with Brown as if it were a full-time job, staying there all day when he wasn’t in school. And on school days, he would run there from his grandmother’s house nearby and practice late into the night.
Brown set down ground rules for Kevin. He would play guard, a shooter’s position. Kevin had played under the basket as a center, taking advantage of his natural height. Brown wanted him to develop as a skill player instead, so Kevin relentlessly practiced different shots: off the dribble, off screens, from behind the arc, and driving. These drills became the basis for Kevin’s NBA game. He was also forbidden from playing in five-on-five pickup games. Brown believed scrimmages bred bad habits. Only through relentless drilling would Kevin develop sound fundamentals.
Brown also drilled Kevin on defense and made him run laps and do duck walks and crab walks up and down the court. Then there was Hunt’s Hill, a steep incline outside the activity center that Kevin would have to run up. Sometimes Kevin’s mom would increase the number of times he was supposed to run up the hill, waiting at the bottom in her car, reading a book. Brown and Wanda worked together to push Kevin toward his NBA dream. Kevin embraced the challenge.
That’s not to say Kevin was a robot. He was a kid, who occasionally got sick of what his coach demanded of him. He cried sometimes. In one drill, Brown had his pupil lie on the floor with a pillow under his head and hold up a medicine ball in the shooting position. He told Kevin to hold it there for an hour. Kevin’s arm began to hurt, and he left the gym and headed for his grandmother’s. Brown waited for him outside. Sure enough, Kevin returned and picked up the ball. It was the only time he ever quit on Brown.
“I was never sure what that drill was for,” Durant told Sports Illustrated in hindsight, “but I know it’s those types of drills that made me who I am today.”
Brown also gave him homework, which included writing out a certain saying about hard work beating talent. Kevin did his regular homework at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center, too. His grandmother would bring him meals, which he would eat there. He even took naps behind a curtain in the gym. Kevin had developed a training schedule too demanding for most adults, all before he became a teenager.
While Brown helped Kevin get ready for games, Charles “Big Chucky” Craig put Kevin on the court. He gave the lanky kid his first shot at organized basketball when Kevin was eight, and coached Kevin until he was fourteen. Craig encouraged Kevin and supported him, buying him food and driving him places. He’d take Kevin places a dad would, like to the movies or to basketball games. Kevin felt loyal to Craig.
“He told me to go out there and play like a superstar, and that’s what I tried to do,” Kevin would later recount on ESPN.
Craig told Kevin that both of them would be sitting backstage at the NBA draft one day, waiting for Kevin’s name to be called. Even when Kevin himself didn’t fully believe in his NBA dream, Craig projected confidence. He had a vision for Kevin’s future that would eventually come true.
Then, when Kevin was a junior in high school, he received news that he thought was a bad joke. Craig had died in a shooting. He was just thirty-five. That’s why Kevin wears the number 35 jersey: to honor Craig, to make sure Craig shares in his success, just as Kevin had always planned.
Kevin has paid similar tribute to his aunt Pearl. Pearl helped raise Kevin, constantly encouraging him. But, like Craig, she died tragically young, of lung cancer, in 2000. As an adult, Kevin has honored her with special editions of his KD signature sneakers. The KD VI Aunt Pearl shoes featured a floral pattern similar to that of a robe she liked to wear. The next edition was white and featured a strap sculpted to resemble an angel’s wings. Proceeds from sales of all the various Aunt Pearl shoes have benefited cancer research.
Kevin never forgot the adults who helped him achieve his NBA dream. But one person was more responsible than anyone else for Kevin’s determination to succeed: Kevin Durant. While his coaches and family might have pushed him, they couldn’t make him devote himself so fully to training. Kevin was mild mannered. At home, he played the role of the kid brother, getting beaten in basketball and most other games by the stronger Tony. Out of the house, his height made him stand out, and not always in a good way. Growing up, he didn’t have a ton of friends. His time spent in the gym couldn’t have helped his social life, either. So why did he do it?
For one thing, he genuinely seemed to love the game. His mom once caught him playing with his Hot Wheels cars, but not racing them. When she asked what he was up to, he claimed to be diagramming potential basketball plays. As he got older, Kevin carried a basketball around so often that it left a series of imprints on his T-shirts.
There was also, however, the promise of a better life through basketball. Kevin spent the first decade or so without his father around and with his mother often working. There wasn’t a lot of money to go around. Basketball gave him not just something to do but a chance to do something great. Sometimes he would take the train out to DC’s more affluent suburbs. There, he might get in some practice, but also a glimpse of a life he could one day provide for himself and for his family.
Kevin never forgot the sacrifices of the adults who had helped him, particularly his mom’s. He also never lost sight of the importance of his own hard work. One day he would give other kids what they needed to follow his path.
Kevin Durant wanted to give up on basketball. As a freshman at National Christian Academy in Maryland, Kevin wasn’t getting the ball from his teammates, and this upset him. He turned to his mom and to Coach Brown, who gave him familiar advice: work harder.
Then, before his sophomore year, something happened that would make every teammate want to pass him the rock, in high school and beyond: he grew. Kevin was always a tall kid. That summer, however, he sprouted about six inches, from six feet, one inch to six feet, seven inches. Most kids at that height would struggle to stay coordinated, but Kevin’s hard work on fundamentals made it easy.
When school was out, Kevin played for the DC Blue Devils, an Amateur Athletic Union team for the best players in the Washington area. As at National Christian, however, he had flown under the radar, playing on the B-team in his first season. All that changed after his growth spurt. The coaches promoted him from a reserve spot to the starting lineup of the travel team, where he would play alongside another future NBAer, Ty Lawson.
Back at National Christian for his sophomore season, things also changed. The kid who had always been tall for his age was now tall for his sport. His long arms gave him tremendous “wingspan,” a highly coveted trait in basketball prospects, as it allows them to shoot without being blocked and to block opponents’ shots. Suddenly, Kevin was a star on his team—something that would remain true without interruption throughout his career. He used his height to shoot over the heads of defenders and grab rebounds. To maximize his diverse skill set, he played multiple positions. His team had the best season in school history, going 27–3.
Still, the people closest to him continued to push him, making sure he strove to get better. After one game in which he racked up a double-double (double-digit totals in two statistical categories), Kevin’s mom criticized his defense, an Achilles’ heel for her lanky son.
“I always let my son know I was proud of him. I always let him know how much I loved him,” Wanda Pratt would later tell the Dallas Morning News. “But when it came to basketball, after he would have a great game, I never let him enjoy that moment because there was something deeper he had to grasp for.” Wanda knew the importance of always having a new goal in mind, and that her son could reach his full potential as long as he kept working hard to be the best.
One group Kevin did get positive feedback from was college recruiters, who became increasingly interested in the sophomore’s game. NCAA basketball recruitment is a multistep process with strict rules that limit how directly coaches can contact players. First, Kevin would receive letters from plenty of schools, before visiting campuses as a junior and deciding on his eventual college.
Playing in the DC area, Kevin was close to the basketball powerhouses of the Atlantic Coast Conference, including the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels. The first school to recruit him, however, was one far from the coast, and better known for its football team: the University of Texas at Austin.
- On Sale
- Sep 4, 2018
- Page Count
- 144 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers