The first time I met Kevin Durant was the morning of Oct. 29, 2008, at the team’s first regular-season shootaround inside the Ford Center.
The shootaround was wrapping up and Kevin was sitting in a chair along the sideline opposite the team’s bench. I approached him, introduced myself and extended a hand. He looked me in the eye, shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me.
My initial thought was something along the lines of, ‘what a nice, genuine guy.’ I felt like I had his full attention. He didn’t seem guarded. Over the next 2 1/2 years, I got to see up close just how much of a good guy Durant is off the court, from the random acts of kindness he’d perform throughout the Oklahoma City community to how good of a teammate and leader he’d become.
I also had a front row seat to witness just how menacing he can be on the court.
Nice guy off it, not a nice guy on it – pretty much what you’d expect from most professional athletes. Except it’s not the norm.
Durant might be the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to on and off court personalities, and that’s one of my favorite things about him. It’s also why Nike’s “KD Is Not Nice” campaign is fitting.
I’ve got a few of my own “Not Nice” moments:
–I had a chance to talk to Texas coach Rick Barnes about Durant for a feature I wrote on him in 2010, and some of Barnes’ best KD stories didn’t even occur during his lone season in Austin.
My favorite one was how Durant would return to campus during the first two summers after he left college for the NBA to take summer classes. He was already making big money, so it would have been completely logical for Durant to rent a house during his stay, or even stay in a hotel.
Going back to campus and living the life of luxury, or at the very least one of good comfort, would have been “nice.”
But instead, as Barnes told me, Durant bought two air mattresses for his 6-11 frame and set them up on the floor of the campus apartment that belonged to his former roommate. Durant thought it’d be a waste of money to rent a home or stay in a hotel. All he needed was a place to crash.
The Number 2 pick of the NBA Draft going old school, sleeping on air mattresses between classes and hoops? That’s not nice. That’s a man who does what he wants. The 6:30 a.m. workouts he’d organize before going to those summer classes? Not nice. Joining his Thunder teammates at the Las Vegas Summer League in that summer of 2010, practicing hard with a bunch of players who would never make an NBA roster, and then sitting on the bench during games to show support? That’s not nice, either. How many superstars do that? What would have been nice was had Durant taken a vacation and enjoyed his time off.