Kevin Durant Returns Home

Elton Hayes | 3/18/2011, 9:51 a.m.
NBA All-Star Remains Committed to Seat Pleasant...
"Being at home in front of my family was great but getting the win made it feel even better," said Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant. Durant scored 32 points and played 28.51 minutes against the Washington Wizards on Mon., March 14 at the Verizon Center in Northwest. Photo by John E. DeFreitas  

NBA All-Star Remains Committed to Seat Pleasant

Basketball fans traveled to the Verizon Center to watch the Washington Wizards hosts the Oklahoma City Thunder on Mon., March 14. But this time, the arena exuded a different energy because more Thunder fans filled the seats than did die-hard Wizards fans. On this particular evening, the Washington metro area welcomed one of their native sons back home.

Oklahoma City's "Golden Boy" Kevin Durant has taken the NBA by storm, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to win the coveted scoring champion title. His 30.1 points per game average edged out Miami's LeBron James for the 2010 title.

"It felt great to play in front of my home crowd. And also to get a win, it felt even better. I'm just blessed to be put in this position and to come back home and have so much support," said Durant, a native of Seat Pleasant, Md. Durant, 22, made his comments following Monday night's 116-89 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Although he's a household name among basketball fans across the country, Durant still remains committed to his Seat Pleasant community in Prince George's County, Md.

In 2009, Durant donated $25,000 to the Seat Pleasant Activity Center for the renovation of one of the center's game rooms. Dubbed "Durant's Den", the newly renovated, state-of-the-art room was unveiled in August. Durant's Den resembles a sports lounge, equipped with two 55-inch flat-screen televisions and a projection screen where the center's youth enjoy playing Play Station 3 and Xbox 360. The room provides an area for those who want to concentrate and complete homework assignments and also serves as a venue for teen nights on the weekends.

"To me he is still the same Kevin. He's [extremely] grounded and very humble. He's a very sweet kid. He has pretty much stayed the same," said Jacquie Harrison, 53, the director of child care at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center.

Oklahoma's 6'9" power forward may appear to be the same little boy that Harrison's known since he was seven, but today

Durant has taken on a whole new persona, especially among children in his community.

"He has influenced a lot of children [at the center]. It tells them that they can make it, no matter what background they come from. He's a big influence. They look up to him. He's their role model," said Mauri Winfree, 15, of Mitchellville, Md. Mauri admits that he also spends a lot of his free time at the center and especially in Durant's Den.

As a teen, Durant spent a good deal of his free time at the center, where he was usually found playing basketball. At the Den unveiling ceremony, Durant chatted with the children and signed autographs. He also passed out basketballs, Nike gym bags and posed for pictures. After Monday's game, Durant said that the center, "kept me off the streets [and] away from a bad crowd. The center [also] taught me how to grow up. I spent most of my time there."

Even today, "[Durant] comes back [to the center] quite often, and he gives back to the community. Not only monetarily, but also with his time. He comes down to see the kids, and talks to the kids," said Brian Shivers, 40, of Seat Pleasant. Shivers chaperoned 25 center youth to Monday night's game to support Durant.

"He's very approachable. He's not like a superstar, where he's untouchable. He knows most of the kids by [their] first name, he
jokes, he plays with them, just like he's one of them," Shivers said after the game, as the group of excited children posed with Durant for pictures on the court. Durant also took time to stop by the center earlier on Monday afternoon to say hello and catch up with old friends.

As for Durant's many contributions to the Seat Pleasant Activity Center, Shivers said that Durant's presence makes a difference.

"It's wonderful for the kids. Seeing what they can strive for in terms of him spending time at the center, training there, spending the majority of his life there. Now, all of a sudden the kids can see him as an NBA player," he said.

The center's children will see professional basketball player very soon.

"In the summertime I work out there almost every day. I have to go back to my roots, where I started," Durant said with a smile.