For some, he made a name for himself in 2007 at the University of Texas as a freshman phenom and the Naismith College Player of the Year.
He opened the eyes of many others by being named an NBA All-Star and the league’s scoring champion during each of the last three seasons as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
However, for natives of the Washington D.C. Metro area, the talents of Kevin Durant have long been recognized.
Born in Washington D.C. but raised in Seat Pleasant, MD, Durant began his career at the early age of eight years old when he joined the Prince George’s (PG) Jaguars, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team.
Led by Durant and his two childhood friends—Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley and University of North Carolina-Charlotte forward Chris Braswell—the Jaguars emerged as not only one of the best teams in the area, but also as a top AAU program in the nation.
While Durant and the Jaguars brought back multiple AAU championships to Seat Pleasant during his childhood, the memories that he cherishes today are not limited to the success he found in winning, but rather extend much farther.
In a recent ESPN special that aired during the Western Conference Finals, the youngest scoring champ in NBA history revealed the reason why he wears the No. 35 jersey—to honor his late AAU coach Charles Craig, who bestowed confidence in Durant when he was young.
During his junior year of high school at Oak Hill Academy, Durant received word that the coach he looked up to as a mentor had been murdered at the young age of 35 while trying to break up a street fight.
For Durant who was only 17 years old at the time, the death of Craig was a tragedy. However, it was one that he would be able to overcome.
After transferring to basketball powerhouse Montrose Christian for his senior year, Durant averaged 23.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field en route to being named All-Metro Player of the Year and co-MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game.
And although his beloved coach was not able to be present, Durant was selected No. 2 Overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the 2007 NBA draft after playing just one year at Texas— a goal that Durant says Craig always envisioned him achieving.
While Durant now lives and plays in Oklahoma City after the Supersonics franchise relocated and changed its name in 2008, a tattoo stretching across the 6-foot-9 swingman’s back that reads “Maryland” reveals his true home—a place that he has not forgotten over the years.
In 2008, Durant donated $25,000 to the Seat Pleasant Recreation Center where his basketball career began when he met Craig there 16 years ago. And despite spending the majority of the year on the road with the Thunder, he returns every summer to play in Washington D.C.’s Goodman League.
From the No. 35 jersey he wears in honor of his first coach to the shoes he laces up each game that have the words “Seat Pleasant” etched on the bottom, the 23-year old PG County native has brought pieces of his home with him this postseason, which marks the first time that he and the Thunder have made it to the NBA Finals.