The NBA would go on without Kevin Durant, but it certainly wouldn’t be the same.
LeBron James would have a larger lead in the latest MVP race, the Lakers would be their relevant and theatrical selves and commissioner David Stern would still be hoping that all these compelling storylines — from young Derrick Rose and his Bulls to the ageless Big Three and their Spurs to the Chris Paul-led Clippers — were enough to take the stain off this lockout-shortened season. But something special would be missing without the willowy wonder from Oklahoma City who has all the makings of an all-time great and is set to become the first player to lead the league in scoring three straight times since Michael Jordan from 1995-98.
There were times during Durant’s early years in Seat Pleasant, Md., when this was a possibility, when the gangly kid who wasn’t sure he was good enough nearly gave up his future profession because, well, it was already feeling like the job he didn’t want. It was a dark chapter in his otherwise-blissful basketball life, a stretch of about two years when he occasionally questioned if all the work was worth it and considered quitting more than once.
The first time, according to Durant, took place in seventh grade while he was at Drew-Freeman Middle School. His mother was pushing him into the Seat Pleasant Recreation Center, the local gym some 10 miles east of Washington, D.C., where he sometimes studied and slept in between training sessions. His coach, a man named Taras “Stink” Brown, whom Durant considered his godfather, punished him with grueling workouts that hardly ever involved the use of a ball. All the extra pain came with a price, and Durant decided it wasn’t paying off.
“I told my godfather, who worked me out every day, I said, ‘I don’t feel like playing basketball no more,’ ” Durant told SI.com recently. “It took me a while to tell him, but I had come to the gym and I’d been at home thinking about it, and I thought, ‘I can’t go through this no more.’ It was tough. God was testing me, and I was on my way to failing.