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News » Thunder's Durant gaining celebrity status

Thunder's Durant gaining celebrity status

Thunder's Durant gaining celebrity statusOKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Kevin Durant seems to be everywhere these days.

There he is on TV, sporting a Jheri curl and doing his best '70s rap impersonation. He spent three days in Hong Kong as an ambassador during the NBA Madness 2009 event. He's back in Texas taking college classes, trying out for the U.S. national basketball team in Vegas and shuttling back and forth between his childhood home near Washington, D.C., and his in-season home in Oklahoma City.

And in between, the Thunder's star is in the gym every chance he gets to work on improving a team that won only 23 games last season.

This is the rise of a perhaps one of the NBA's next superstars, though the 20-year-old shies away from any talk putting him in the same category as LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. He's his own man, and the world is slowly getting a chance to get to know him.

Take his Nike commercial that debuted this summer. Durant spent three days filming it with Andre Iguodala, Mo Williams and Rashard Lewis. Each has an alter ego, with Durant playing the role of "Velvet Hoop," and taking turns rapping for the camera.

"Everybody sees me as a serious, quiet kid but I wanted everybody to see the funny side to me," Durant said. "I have a sense of humor. I'm not always serious. It was a lot of fun. I want to do it again. A lot of people liked it, so if we continue to keep this going, this Velvet Hoop thing, we can do it as long as possible."

Durant has been the kind of immediate sensation everyone expected after he was college player of the year during his lone college season at Texas. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2007-08, then took his game to another level by ranking sixth in the league with 25.3-point scoring average.

That development has given him the platform to do some special things. The NBA approached him this spring about making the trip to Hong Kong, where he put on shooting exhibitions and signed autographs for fans in a shopping mall.

"It was an honor because obviously they feel like the character I have and type of person I am, I'd be good to go over there," Durant said.

Durant called it "truly a blessing" that basketball has allowed him to see the world and have such memorable experiences, like dining on a mountain with his mom during that trip to China.

But as many opportunities as Durant has been given, he's earned them all. After getting back from overseas, he immediately resumed working out with his teammates in Oklahoma City more than three weeks before the start of training camp. While he was taking a health class at Texas, he hit the gym with fellow Longhorns alums and NBA players like D.J. Augustin and Royal Ivey.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti said it's that daily devotion to getting better and a respect for the game that drive Durant's success.

"I think that Kevin continues to grow as a player and that growth is directly attributed to the amount of work that he puts in and the focus with which he prepares," Presti said.

"We feel like clearly his best basketball is ahead of him, but throughout his development as a basketball player the characteristics that he walked in the door with the day he was drafted - such as humility, work ethic and being a good teammate - those things continue to remain consistent even with his growth and development as a player."

Durant is excited about the Thunder's prospects for this season with the addition of first-round picks James Harden and Byron Mullens to a young core that already includes Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. Oklahoma City also added center Etan Thomas in a trade and signed free-agent guard Kevin Ollie.

"We have guys on the team that can play - play defense, play offense. We've got versatile guys, we've got long-range shooters," Durant said. "Once we get that experience under our belt and continue to work and take it day-by-day, I think we'll be all right."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 17, 2009


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