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In accepting his first MVP award, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant made a point of sharing the honor with those who made it possible.
In a soul-baring speech that lasted more than 25 minutes, Durant fought back tears several times while thanking each of his teammates, the coaches, support staff and team executives, and finally his family. The emotional outpouring culminated with a tribute to his mother, Wanda Pratt, and the sacrifices she made, the inspiration she provided while raising Durant and his brother in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
“You made us believe,” Durant said to Pratt, who was at the ceremony in Edmond, Oklahoma. “Kept us off the street. Put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”
Durant explained that Pratt was a single mother with two boys, and though times were tough while growing up, Pratt always thought something better was ahead. Durant said to appreciate moments like these, he often looks back to gain perspective. “One of the best memories I had is when we moved into our first apartment,” he said as tears streamed down Pratt’s face. “No bed, no furniture, and we just all sat in the living room and hugged each other, ’cause that’s when we all thought we made it.”
He’s really made it now. The young man who said he was told he “wasn’t supposed to be here” won the NBA’s top individual honor Tuesday, receiving 119 first-place votes. Miami’s LeBron James, who had won the last two MVP awards and four of the previous five, finished second with six first-place votes, and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers was third.
Durant, 25, called it “surreal” and at one point, as he thanked his teammates, he stopped and said, “I don’t know why I’m crying so much.”
“Everything in my life, I had to take it,” Durant said. “They’re not going to give it to you out of sympathy. I wouldn’t want it any other way. This was another case: If I wanted to win the MVP, I had to go take it. I felt that this was the year I did that.”
During a speech in which Durant revealed a humility and vulnerability rarely displayed by a professional athlete, he also drew some laughs. “I could walk in and have a terrible day and I could see Hasheem [Thabeet] smiling at me, at 7-foot-3 with small pants on,” he said. “That would change my day.”
Durant mentioned qualities about each teammate, showing respect for the veterans who challenge him and the rookies who inspire him to do things the right way because they look up to him. “I go home and I think about that stuff, man,” he said. “When you’ve got people behind you, you can do whatever.”
Watch videos of his speech below: