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The 831 kids who waited for Kevin Durant to show up did not know that they were about to create a Guinness world record. Add another 2628 kids, who joined the session by video conferences from four other cities — Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad. Together they made the practice session the biggest ever. Not the record, but getting a glimpse of the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and share the floor with him was the biggest moment of their lives. There were many who waited for Durant with the Warriors’ kit to get an autograph. He obliged whoever he could.
The 28-year-old was at the NBA Academy in Greater Noida on the second day of his three-day visit to India, which has been a busy one so far. There have been welcomes where he is made to wear the turban, walk the red carpet, meet Bollywood actors and play with some school kids but that is not what he is here for, and Durant knows it. He also knows that to grow basketball, they have to beat cricket.
“I haven’t played any cricket but I know how big the sport is in the culture. I know it will take some time for basketball to take over but you got to start somewhere and this is a great start. I want the team to keep growing its game and more and more kids to start,” he said.
On Friday, here he is in his basketball gear (more of practice kit and not the actual Golden State Warriors outfit) and is having a coaching session with the kids. So far, Durant has enjoyed his stay in India and wants to be himself for the remaining part of it.
“I’ll be myself,” Durant said when asked what he plans for the remaining part of his visit. “It’s been great so far. I am trying to it one moment at a time. Everything is overwhelming. This much love and it’s appreciative from me and my team and NBA. While I am here, I try to be my best and learn and help it grow. I hope people can come and see my passion that I have for the people and the game. Hopefully, I can comeback here. The first visit is going good so far and I want to grow this thing.”
— NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) 28 July 2017
This is the first time a NBA professional is visiting the academy in India which is coaching the 21 kids who were picked up after trials from all over the country. Durant says someone from the country can make it big and it’s great to be the first player to visit an academy but more and more guys will like to do this to promote the game.
“I think someone (Satnam Singh) got drafted two years go and played the D-League for Dallas. That was a huge, huge step. Even Sim Bhullar’s inclusion is also something big. People look up and rise up the ranks and it’s just a matter of time (before we have someone from India in NBA). Basketball is growing and the demand is growing. Just having the opportunity to come here and interact with the kids, see their potential and to be one of the first guys to come here and see this. More and more guys will want to be involved. It’s cool to be the first guy to come here,” he says.
The six-foot-nine-inch player has one more thing planned on his last day of the tour — a visit to the Taj Mahal. Now, Durant has always carried the personality of being himself. Whenever someone doubted him, he proved them wrong. Even when doubts about his power rose, he proved them wrong by winning the MVP in 2014 and then when he failed to advance to the Finals even once with the Thunders, he made sure he did it in his first season with Warriors.
— NBA (@NBA) 28 July 2017
It will be the same for next season. All he wants to do is take one day at a time and see where it goes. He does not know where he will land next year but he wants to just enjoy every day he plays the game.
“I have no clue. I will try to repeat it next year and get another Championship, that’s the goal. I never try to find these things (future) and try to take a day at a time. It’s hard looking at the future. I wish I could tell you but you need to keep getting better. I want to be prepared and focused from day one and I am working on my game every day and see what happens at the end of the season. There is more resting so I can be more efficient and work smarter. I am lifting weights more than anything. I got on the courts a few times but rest is definitely important. I got injured during the season for a month and my body was holding after that from rest of the season to the so I know how important is rest,” he says.
But does Durant really care about being the NBA champion, being the MVP and if so many follow him? Read his Twitter bio: “IM ME, I DO ME, AND I CHILL”. It has been there since he joined the microblogging site. That part of his personality was on show on Friday as well. While the world debates whether Cleveland Cavaliers’ player Kyrie Irving should go and if he does then where KD says he doesn’t care.
“I really don’t care about Kyrie Irving situation. I just want the guys in the league to be happy wherever they play. I want them to have some fun playing ball. So, wherever that is, for Kyrie, I hope he finds that. But LeBron James is a phenomenal player. I got a chance to play on his team in the Olympics in 2012, and learned a lot from him,” he says.
— NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) 28 July 2017
But, does he care about coming to India? Durant never ruled out the idea of coming to India and is enjoying the new experience so far.
“I can believe that can happen at some point in my career but I am used to travelling around the world and to come here, it’s a new experience for me. Back then, I wouldn’t say it was too far-fetched but after exploring so many different places, this is the perfect time to come here,” he says.