The NBA rookie of the year award belongs to Kevin Durant, but it will live in the trophy case of the Seat Pleasant Recreation Center in...
The NBA rookie of the year award belongs to Kevin Durant, but it will live in the trophy case of the Seat Pleasant Recreation Center in Maryland, where his basketball game was born.
“This is for my godfather,” Durant said during a reception to honor the first Sonics player to win the award.
It wasn’t enough to thank everybody, from Sonics coaches, teammates and fans to his family and T-Mobile, the sponsor of the award, and the company’s 300 or so employees who gathered in the parking lot beneath overcast skies for Thursday’s ceremonial presentation.
It wasn’t enough to humbly receive tributes and praise from well-wishers. Durant, 19, spent a few minutes talking about one of the darkest times of his life and remembering the fallen mentor he called “Superman.”
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This for Charles Craig, he said.
“Yesterday when I found out that I won it, that was the same day three years ago that my AAU coach died,” Durant said. “I just want to give it to him to show how much I worked hard.”
Craig, Durant’s former AAU basketball coach, was shot and killed April 30, 2005. He was 35 when he died, and Durant wears the No. 35 to honor his memory.
Dressed in a black and red pinstripe suit, Durant spent much of Thursday morning reflecting on his scintillating first season in the NBA, in which he led rookies in scoring (20.3 points per game) and total assists. He also reflected on a basketball journey that began when he was 8 or 9 years old.
Back then, the three most influential people in his life were his mother, Wanda Pratt, and his coaches Taras Brown and Craig.
“Everybody shares in this day,” said Wayne Pratt, Durant’s father. “It’s like graduation and the draft. The family is all here. We all share in this because we all feel like we had a piece in helping Kevin get to this point. He did the work, but he had lots of support.”
Durant and six family members — grandmother Barbara Davis, brother Cliff Dixon, cousins Charlie Bell and Charles Johnson, and his parents — flew to Seattle on Wednesday and returned to their hometown of Washington D.C., Thursday night.
They sat in the front row when T-Mobile executive Sue Nokes presented the Sonics shooting guard the Eddie Gottlieb trophy. The only Sonics in attendance were general manager Sam Presti, coach P.J. Carlesimo, assistants Ralph Lewis and Brian Keefe and trainer Dwight Daub.
“We’re very fortunate, but we’re going to build with him and we’re not necessarily going to just build around him,” Presti said.
Durant, a star at Texas as a freshman, was the second overall selection in the 2007 draft. He was one of the few bright spots during a dismal Sonics season. The team finished with a franchise-worst 20-62 record and chairman Clay Bennett recently received league approval to move the team to Oklahoma City next season pending the outcome of lawsuits.
“I don’t know if people appreciate what he did,” Carlesimo said. “He made it look easy at times.”
Durant, the youngest player in the league, received 90 first-place votes from a panel of 125 sportswriters and broadcasters. Atlanta forward Al Horford, who garnered 30 first-place votes, finished second and Houston forward Luis Scola was third.
Some of the first congratulatory text messages Durant received were from Horford and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
“I talked to Al and he congratulated me yesterday,” Durant said. “I was very happy for him and his team. I’d rather trade this in to be where he’s at right now. To be in the playoffs.”
Durant has been a regular at Washington Wizards home playoff games and plans to attend tonight’s game at the Verizon Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I’m just trying to get there one day,” he said. “Hopefully next year.”
During his exit interview with Carlesimo and Presti, Durant promised to spend a few weeks away from basketball. Over the past days, however, he has taken part in a couple of pickup games at the soon-to-be home of his rookie-of-the-year trophy.
“I can’t stay out of the gym,” he said. “I love playing basketball. That’s how I was taught, and I don’t see myself changing.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
|Kevin Durant heads a list of Sonics who have won postseason awards:|
|’07-08||Kevin Durant||Rookie of year|
|’95-96||Gary Payton||Defensive player of year|
|’93-94||Bob Whitsitt||Executive of year|
|’86-87||Dale Ellis||Most improved player|
|’82-83||Zollie Volchok||Executive of year|