Reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant has spent all seven years of his professional career dazzling fans with dynamic scoring ability and energetic athleticism. The 25-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder forward is widely considered to be the best offensive player in the game today, and his selection to five NBA All-Star games as well as selling the fourth largest amount of jerseys in 2013 are both perfect reflections of just how highly the fans respect his ability to play ball. What is even more respectable, though, is his acknowledgment that his skills were bestowed upon him and should be used to glorify someone other than himself. After the Thunder’s 112-95 win against the Heat in January (where Durant scored at least 30 points for the 12th straight game), ESPN analyst Doris Burke asked Durant what he credits his recent success too. Durant responded, “Thank God, that’s all I can say, Jesus Christ.” Burke then laughed at his response and asked, “You had nothing to do with it?” to which Durant happily said, “No, nothing, it’s all Him.”
Foundation and progression of faith
Durant claims his foundation in his faith is tied to his family and the three Christian high schools he attended. His curiosity in how humanity was created and what motivates people’s actions kept him searching in the Bible for the answers. Durant’s mother introduced him to Christ, but Durant fortunately found numerous spiritual mentors he can consult on any occasion. Former teammate Kevin Ollie made a huge impact on Durant’s Christian walk and helped him to feel more comfortable about being outspoken with his faith and praying out loud for others in need. Ollie also started the team’s trend of attending chapel services before games, a tradition that Durant willingly continues. During an interview with Beliefnet.com’s Chad Bonham, Kevin verbally understood that he is not where he wants to be in his Christian walk; “I’ve got a long way to go to become closer to the Lord, but hopefully I can continue to stay on the path.” However, everyone has room to improve their relationship with Christ and, fortunately, he admits that his teammates are a tight-knit bunch who are always praying for each other and trying to sharpen each other’s faith.
Spiritual mentor Carl Lentz
Last June, Durant spoke about baptism at New York City’s Hillsong Church, which he happens to have a special relationship with. That church’s pastor, Carl Lentz, has been a huge spiritual guide in the young athlete’s life, mostly attributed to how kind Lentz is with everyone, Lentz not giving Durant superstar preferential treatment because of his status and Lentz’s relatability to Durant. The bond between them is so strong that Durant took Lentz to a Jay-Z led sports management signing deal. In reference to baptism, Durant told Lentz’s congregation, “When I came out of the water, I just felt different. Basketball is so important to me, and I carry that emotion with me all of the time. Before that I would be so mad at the smallest things.” Durant later added, “My coaches, my teammates, my fans. After that, I was just so positive. Showing God his grace…”
Displays of faith
This 6’10” giant often takes flak for the backpack he wears to post-game interviews because of how goofy it looks, but few people know that he carries his Bible in there. His Bible is typically on his person before and after games. Like many of his NBA brethren, Durant does not shy away from body ink, but his tattoos give a reflection of what his walk with the Lord means to him. On the bottom right side of his stomach is an excerpt from 2 Corinthians 5:7: “Walk by faith not by sight”. Above that is a cross with scripture from Proverbs 15:33 above the cross. The passage reads, “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.”
Durant’s selfless attitude toward giving credit where it is due is reminiscent of his play on the court. He will defer to his teammates when they are open and can take a good shot, and he refuses to hog the spotlight, even when the media would willingly give him all the attention he could ever desire and then some. However, Durant has shown time after time in his press conferences just how humble and composed he is and has never hesitated to give credit to his teammates, coach or God for anything. Despite being in the limelight for seven years now, Durant still appreciates everything God has done for him. “I always kind of pinch myself and say that any day this can be gone. In the Bible, (it says) the Lord exalts humility and that’s one thing I try to be all the time. When I’m talking in front of people or when people tell me I’m great, I (remind myself that I) can always be better. I always work on what I have now. I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for the gifts He’s given me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can.”
Jonathan Ebanks is an avid sports fan who loves to work as a freelance writer/editor in his spare time. Email Jonathan at [email protected].