He only played one season of basketball for the University of Texas, but you won’t find a more proud Longhorn than Kevin Durant. And even though it’s been more than 10 years since he last put on a burnt orange jersey and took the floor at the Erwin Center, millions of UT fans remain loyal to KD.
The 6-foot-9 NBA superstar returned to the Forty Acres on September 9, 2016, to serve as the inaugural guest for the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation’s #iLEAD speaker series.
The event sold out and people around the world tuned in to the live stream. As was to be expected, Durant, whose heartfelt NBA MVP speech went viral in 2014, offered the audience plenty of advice and wisdom, and he even took the time to sign a young fan’s basketball, mid-event.
There were too many highlights to list, but here are just a few Durant-isms that came out of his conversation with CSLi’s Daron Roberts.
1. Some people lead without saying a word.
For KD, the first person who taught him this was his mom.
“I would watch her wake up at five in the morning, get me and my brother ready for our day, and then she would go to work and work all day and pick us up at night,” he said. “She was putting in work. And that’s what I kind of stand on. Putting in work.”
A strong work ethic helped KD become one of the best basketball players in the world, but that kind of dedication can help you find success in any profession.
“I feel like I could have been anything in the world because I work as hard as I do and I love what I do . . . and I learned that from [my mom].”
2. To find yourself, sometimes you have to go off on your own.
Durant was one of the most highly recruited young basketball players in his high school class. He could have gone to any college in the country, and he was very, very close to committing to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The successful tradition of the UNC program attracted him, and he had a number of former teammates who had gone there, but when he visited Texas, he loved the energy and the vibe of the school and the basketball program.
Fittingly, it was something Durant’s mother said that made him ultimately choose to become a Longhorn. She said, “It’s time to set your own path. It’s time to veer off and get away.”
“My family [couldn’t] drive to Texas, so I was out here by myself, and I was looking forward to that,” Durant said. “So I wanted a challenge and I dived into this challenge here, and it was the best decision that I’ve made in my life thus far.”
3. Be well-rounded.
For much of his early life, basketball was everything for Durant. If it wasn’t, he probably wouldn’t have reached the level of success he’s had. But as he’s gotten older, Durant has started to think about his passions off the court.
“Up until about a year ago, I thought my purpose was solely to be a basketball player,” he said. “I woke up from that, and I’m still learning and figuring out what I love to do outside of playing the game, and it’s making the game of basketball even more fun.”
One hobby he’s picked up is photography, and he even attended the 2018 Super Bowl as a photographer for The Players’ Tribune.
“Photography is one of the things that kept me as ease with this crazy life that I live as a basketball player and just kept me in the moment,” Durant explained. “Pictures are so perfect because they just capture one single moment and that’s something that you can always go back to and reminisce on.”
4. Be a role model by accepting your imperfections.
Durant is known as one of the most genuine players in the NBA, and part of that is making sure his fans and those who look up to him understand that he experiences failure and has bad days, just like they do.
“I’m not a saint,” he said. “Kids that look up to me, they see progression, they see that it’s not all perfect.
“There’s going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be peaks and valleys, and it’s when you fail and how you get up that determines who you are. It’s going to be 10, 11 times in a row you might fall, but you keep getting up. Keep getting up, keep fighting, keep pushing, keep believing. It sounds cliche, but it really is true.”
5. Nothing great was ever achieved without sacrifice.
Kevin Durant didn’t go to prom. In fact, there were a lot of events in high school and in his year at UT that he missed because of a basketball game, or because he getting extra reps in after practice or watching basketball film.
“It was tough as a kid, but now I could really say I don’t regret doing all that,” he said. “My friends didn’t understand at the time, but hey, I’m here now.”
Later on in his career, KD learned about a different type of sacrifice. When playing for Team USA at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, he had to get used to playing with 11 other superstars, and they had to share the glory, the point-scoring opportunities and the limelight.
“When you’re playing on a team, that’s very important, establishing your roles and sacrificing,” Durant said. “Playing for Coach K and Team USA taught me a lot about sacrificing and what it takes to win.”