Thunder star building charity in OKC
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kevin Durant strolled down the red carpet with confidence March 20. With his mother, Wanda Pratt, on his arm and dressed in a gray suit and black leather shoes, Durant looked all business.
It wasn’t the look he has when draining game-winning 3-pointers or after making a blocked shot in crunch time for the Oklahoma City Thunder. No, the look Durant had that day was that of a man who understands the power he wields and is looking to make a difference in the city he lives and works.
“It’s home,” Durant said of Oklahoma City. “I’ve always felt that this place meant so much to me. It has a special place in my heart and my families heart as well. We just want to do our justice by giving to those who are less fortunate. That’s how I was raised. It’s what my mom taught, my grandmother taught me. I’ve been blessed with so much I want to give blessings to someone else.”
Durant was hosting a fundraiser at his restaurant, KDs, for the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation (KDCF). It was the first time he has held such an event since founding the charity.
“It started off with wanting to help underprivileged kids, giving them an opportunity,” Durant said. “I want to inspire. that’s my whole mindset. Continue to inspire kids. Let them know it’s a goal they can reach. It is attainable. My mom taught me to dream big. I want to give that same feeling back to other kids.”
According to Kevindurant.com, the mission of the KDCF ‘is to enrich the lives of at-risk youth from low-income backgrounds through educational, athletic and social programs. … make a more expansive, profound, and lasting impact in the areas of youth development, health and wellness, fitness, and youth homelessness.”
All proceeds from the fundraiser went to the center piece of the KDCF, the Build it and They Will Ball courts renovation initiative. Starting in 2015, Durant has gone to different parts of Oklahoma City and surrounding communities to build or refurbish basketball courts in low income neighborhoods or schools.
Thunder General Manager Sam Presti has watched Durant grow from a teenager straight out of the University Texas to an emerging global star. But he says Durant’s most important work will can take place in his own backyard.
“As much as he has evolved as a player, I think it’s been probably more rewarding to see his evolution as a person, also now as a civic leader and ambassador of the state,” Presti said. “I think the most impressive thing to me is he really embraces the platform of being able to inspire others. And embraces the platform he has to reach people on a real human level. Given the close knight community that he plays in and that he’s part of.”
Several members of the Thunder, its coaching staff and management were on hand for the fundraiser.
“It’s good,” Westbrook said. “Not for me, but more for him. To show support for him and show we care about things he’s trying to do. Which are important.”
Many of the Thunder have their own charity organizations outside of what they do with the team. And they make it a point to try and be part of whatever their teammates have going on. That is especially true for Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
“it’s huge. We grind and do our thing on the court. To have that support, no matter what I do, it makes it stronger. We are stronger as a group than we are as individuals. That’s how I feel about my teammates.”
It was also evident how Pratt felt about her son. Watching Durant talk about giving back to the community and to those in need was a proud moment for her.
“It’s a huge blessing for my family and myself to see my son carrying on our family legacy and giving back and inspiring kids to dream, to hope and to achieve,” Pratt said. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of and I’m glad to share this moment with him.”
“It can have a huge impact,” Durant said of the KDCF. “The Thunder do such a great job with community appearances. We touch the people. We don’t just say we want to do things. We actually go out in the community and do them. To have that opportunity on my own, I feel real passionate about it. It’s been great so far this year. I look forward to doing more and more.”