A tear slid down Wanda Pratt’s cheek as she listened to her baby boy talk about the latest chapter in his NBA fairy tale.
This is an emotional time for Kevin Durant’s mom.
“Every time I turn around,” she said, “I’m crying.”
Rest assured, they’re happy tears.
The day after Durant signed a contract extension that will keep him in Oklahoma City through 2015-16 and pay him upward of $87 million, the emotions remained strong at a midday press conference.
It wasn’t just his mom, either. The Thunder superstar got misty eyed a couple times, too.
“I was very emotional… ” he said, pausing to collect himself, “… these last couple of days.”
Sometimes as the dollars signs grow and the bottom lines expand, it’s easy to forget that there are people involved in these deals. People who aren’t all that different from you and me. People who suddenly find themselves in a place they never dreamed they’d be.
So it is with Durant and his family.
For many years, Durant’s mother raised him and his older brother, Tony, by herself. She had the boys when she was still young, 20 or 21 years old, and even though Pratt worked long hours, times were often tough.
Sacrifices had to be made.
“My mom, she always wanted to go back to school,” Durant said. “She never really had a chance to finish because of me and my brother.”
Instead of her goals, Pratt focused on the ones that her sons had. Being an NBA player was Durant’s dream before he was even 10 years old, and when he told his mom about it, she made a promise to help him any way she could so that he could reach that goal.
She was serious about it, too.
She enlisted help from a family friend to coach Durant, running him ragged and laying the early foundation. She drove him to practice. She attended every game. She offered honest and sometimes harsh critiques.
“She’s been my toughest critic,” Durant said. “Sometimes, I don’t want to hear it.”
But he always listened.
Look where it got him.
Look where it got them.
“She sacrificed so much of her free time because of me and my brother,” Durant said. “It feels so good to be able to let her relax now and do her thing. It feels good to do that for her.”
We’ve heard athletes talk about being able to provide for their families, and at one time or another, we’ve probably all rolled our eyes at it. It’s become clichÃ©. It’s become tired.
But Friday was a reminder that sometimes the sentiment is absolutely genuine.
Last week when Thunder general manager Sam Presti showed up at Durant’s house at 11:01 p.m. — the first moment the team was allowed to start negotiating the contract — there were tears. Thursday evening when Durant made the deal final by signing on the dotted line, there were tears.
“He knows he works hard,” Durant’s agent Eric Goodwin said, “but sometime, some things just don’t seem real when they’re happening.”
Signing a piece of paper that means you’ll receive $17 million a year to play a game that you love has to be one of those moments.
How is it even possible to spend that much money in a year?
“To be honest with you,” Durant said, “I don’t know.”
“We’d never seen that much money before.”
Most of us never do, but Durant is about to find out what it’s like to have those kind of finances. The opportunities are limitless. The options are overwhelming. Even though Durant is sure to have his share of fun with his new riches — who wouldn’t buy something nice for themselves every now and then? — he is more excited about another dream he’s realized.
He will be able to pay back his mom in ways she never imagined.
“We had a good life growing up,” he said, “but it’s an even better life now.”