Kevin Durant Leads Oklahoma City Thunder To It’s First NBA Finals Trip
Johnny Ludden of Yahoo Sports on the Thunder’s NBA Finals run lead by superstar Kevin Durant:
OKLAHOMA CITY – Everybody wanted a picture with the NBA’s greatest young star. Friends, family members, the NBA’s omnipresent and eternally leather-clad fan, Jimmy Goldstein – even Kevin Durant’s own mother. Thursday morning was closing hard on Wednesday night, and Durant had wandered onto the court to find his mom for one more kiss. As they hugged, the arena’s overhead video scoreboard, lowered for some maintenance work, continued to flash the Oklahoma City Thunder’s newest title: Western Conference champions.
The parade of well-wishers met Durant the moment he emerged from the arena’s tunnel and stepped onto the floor. For nearly 20 minutes, Durant obliged them all, taking pictures, signing autographs, no one wanting the night to end. Neatly dressed in sea-foam slacks, plaid belt and blue sportsjacket with a flower on the lapel, Durant looked like he was headed to the prom instead of the NBA Finals. Finally, he pulled his mother close one last time and asked:
Yes, they’re ready. Every last one of them. These young Thunder. The proud city they’ve carried on this magical ride. Durant’s led them all. From the rubble of a 23-win season, from a 2-0 hole against the San Antonio Spurs in the West finals, from an 18-point deficit on Wednesday night, he’s lifted them on his slender shoulders.
No one need ask Durant again if he’s ready. The West belongs to him now. The Finals are his stage. He delivered a transcendent performance with 34 points and 14 rebounds, never leaving the floor during the game’s 48 minutes. As the final seconds began to tick off the Thunder’s clinching 107-99 victory, he ran over to the sideline and wrapped his mother and two brothers in a long hug.
“I never want to take those moments for granted,” Durant said. “I know we’re just one step closer to our dreams.”
These playoffs have become a coming-of-ages story for Durant and his Thunder. They swept the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, dismissed Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games and ran off four consecutive victories against the Spurs after everyone questioned their resolve. The Spurs didn’t give back these West finals as much as Durant and the Thunder took them. Standing against a wall in the quiet of the Spurs’ locker room late Wednesday, Duncan said what so many had believed just a week earlier: “I thought this was definitely our time.”
The West now runs by Durant’s clock. He’s just 23, and, still, he was tired of waiting. From the Thunder’s ferocious point guard, Russell Westbrook, to their cool-headed and crafty reserve, James Harden, they all believed the same: They didn’t need to respect their elders anymore; they needed to beat them. No longer is age an excuse for the Thunder. It’s an asset.
“I think the youth is kind of something that wills us,” Westbrook said.
The Thunder speak often of their “family,” and it’s true. So many of them are so young, they’ve all grown up together. All these team-is-one mantras can get a little nauseating to outsiders, but the Thunder believe them. You won’t find Durant alone on billboards in Oklahoma City. It’s all team shots or pictures of the Thunder flag. The photos lining the walls of the Thunder’s arena and practice facility are the same: players’ hands clasped in a huddle; a snapshot of the team’s logo on a player’s shorts. No one individual is greater than the whole, conventional marketing plans be damned.
Posted on June 7, 2012, in NBA and tagged @NBAPlayoffs, Kevin Durant, NBA Finals, Oklahoma City Thunder. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Kevin Durant Leads Oklahoma City Thunder To It’s First NBA Finals Trip.