'Real MVP' Premiere: Queen Latifah Shares How Kevin Durant's Mother Inspired Her

Queen Latifah - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Queen Latifah - Getty - H 2016

Lifetime's original movie is inspired by the basketball star's mother, to whom he dedicated his NBA MVP award speech in 2014.

Standing on the red carpet at New York City’s Dolby Theater on Wednesday evening, Wanda Durant apologized for her puffy eyes. “I’ve been crying for almost a week now, just like the week following the press conference for the MVP award,” she said. 

In 2014, her son Kevin Durant, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, won the NBA's MVP award, closing his speech with a heartfelt message to his mom for the sacrifices she made as a single parent. “You made us believe,” he said. “You’re the real MVP.”

As the world watched and shared Kevin’s thankful moment, so too did Queen Latifah and her Flavor Unit Entertainment production team, and two years later, Wanda is at the premiere of the Lifetime original movie The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story. As Latifah told The Hollywood Reporter, her interest in Wanda’s story ran parallel to everyone else’s.

“What drew us to it is what drew the world to it, watching Kevin Durant make that MVP speech on ESPN,” she said. “How moved he was in speaking about his mom, just really moved us. And so we wanted to know, who is the woman behind this superstar basketball player and what was life like that made him feel so moved to tears at this most special of moments, when he could have talked about anything else — my coaches, my team — and he talked about his mom? So we wanted to know the mom.”

For Wanda, seeing her life onscreen, working two jobs to support a family of three, was a pleasant surprise, but as Kevin and the Thunder battle the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals, she can’t help but feel torn. “It’s been really emotional but it’s been really rewarding,” the inspirational speaker said of the movie's promotional tour, “because it really supports my message now. But I never knew that this would be a part of my life.” 

For Cassandra Freeman, who plays Wanda in the film, that connection was discernible from the moment Kevin uttered those now famous words. “Once I first saw it,” she said of his MVP speech, “I cried. And then my next reaction was it was so refreshing, it almost felt revolutionary to hear a young man like him at that level talk about his mom. It felt like he was talking just to her in the audience. And I think that’s why it was such a transcendent moment even on social media. It wasn’t about him talking to anyone else.”

The Real MVP will air on Lifetime on Saturday, May 7 at 8 p.m. ET, just in time for Mother’s Day.