2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant shook everyone up when he took the stage to accept his MVP trophy earlier this week and singled out each of his teammates one-by-one, even the rookies and recent signings. The one teammate who has been with KD since the beginning, Nick Collison, returned the favor in a recent piece he penned for Sports Illustrated.
Collison is the only remaining player from Oklahoma City’s last season in Seattle (RIP). That 2007-08 season was also Durant’s rookie year, as a spindly 7-footer looking overmatched on the perimeter following a lone season in Texas.
OKC’s current backup power forward, Collison, is in a unique position to track the trajectory of Durant during his ascension to league MVP. During Durant’s rookie year, Collison remembers a “shy and quiet” guy, but someone he’d describe as a, “‘Real nice kid.'”
But, and this made KD a tad unique, especially considering the lavish endorsement opportunities after he was drafted so high, Collison also wrote that despite struggling in his rookie season, KD loved basketball first and foremost.
Via Sports Illustrated:
As a perimeter player, he struggled playing against really quick guys who would get underneath him as a ball handler. Physically, he was thin, and the grind of the 82-game season wore on him.
Still, what stuck out to me was that he just really wanted to be a basketball player. Some guys come into the league and have these ideas about what they want to do off the court — to be businessmen and all that. Kevin was all about basketball. He was most comfortable in the gym. He just loved to play ball.
After praising KD’s abilities as a true 7-footer who could handle the rock, come off pin down screens and run the pick-and-roll, Collison went on to reveal how KD’s stardom doesn’t set him outside the pale of a teammate’s criticism like a lot of superstars in the NBA:
Kevin is not in a different category than anyone else, either. He allows guys to make suggestions. If I feel like he’s floating a bit in a game or down a bit about a bad start, I can get in his ear and say, “You gotta get in a stance,” or “You gotta pick us up.” And he’ll listen and be open-minded, rather than reacting with the attitude that I’m the MVP, and you’re a role player.
Collison ends with what many basketball fans feel about the humble 2014 MVP, even if we’re not exposed to it every day like Collison has been. Durant continues to be that “good kid” from his rookie year, even as a man and MVP with so many people tugging for this time:
Thirty years from now, what I’ll remember most about Kevin is how he treated people. Because his world is really crazy. He can’t go anywhere without people coming up to him. Everybody wants something. It would almost be understandable for him to not have a good feel for how to deal with people. But he’s managed to stay true to who he was on that first day I met him seven years ago. He’s still respectful. What you see is who he is. Everybody who works for the Thunder, he works with them, they don’t work for him. We’re all peers.
I’ve got a ton of respect for Kevin Durant. It’s really been an honor to play with him.
Kevin Durant isn’t perfect, either on the basketball court, or in real life, but he’s true to himself, which is all anyone can ask for. Collison does a really good job explaining what makes Durant so special as a person and a player and what an honor it’s been for Collison to play alongside KD as he matured into the league’s best player.* You should really read the whole missive, it’s excellent.
*This year, at least.
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