Basketball pro Kevin Durant may have been the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in 2014 and 2017, but according to him, his mother Wanda Durant is “the real MVP.”
When Kevin was just an infant, and his brother Anthony was just a toddler, their father abandoned the family and left Wanda as a single mother at 21.
“The odds were stacked against us. Single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old,” Kevin said during his 2014 MVP acceptance speech. “We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”
Wanda believes that modeling perseverance and hard work despite enormous challenges inspired her sons to work hard to achieve their own dreams. “I continued to give them my love, my time, my presence and being as engaged as I possibly could,” she told NBA.com. “After looking over my life, I realized that having hope and not quitting gave my sons the opportunity to live out their dreams and do the same.”
She’s Kevin’s biggest fan on and off the court, and now she’s also a motivational speaker and philanthropist working to give people in underserved communities chances to succeed.
But who is Wanda Durant? Read on to learn about her inspirational journey, her philanthropy and the important work she does today.
She’s a motivational speaker
Wanda’s philosophy is “where there is hope, there is possibility,” as she says on her website, MamaDurant.com. Her bio reads, “Her passion is to inspire underserved children, single mothers and communities to move beyond their immediate circumstances and to aim for higher heights in life.”
She has spoken for corporate groups like J.P. Morgan Chase and for organizations like the Ford Foundation, The White House United State of Women Summit and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference.
She helps run the Durant Family Foundation
The charity helps support underprivileged kids around the world, working under the mission statement: “To enrich the lives of at-risk youth from low-income backgrounds through educational, athletic and social programs.”
However, some of the organization’s work hits especially close to home for the Durants. In 2022, the foundation donated $500,000 toward renovating the basketball courts at Bowie State University, near where Kevin grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
“It’s home … Bowie State is pretty much our background and PG County is who we know and it’s a part of who we are. It being the first HBCU in Maryland along with Kevin playing in that gym — all of the stars aligned for this to take place,” Wanda said.
In addition to her family charity, Wanda is involved with groups like the Single Parents Support Network, Baller Moms, The Boys & Girls Club of America and Mothers of Professional Basketball Players. She’s also on the board of Tigress Financial Partners, working to educate women about financial literacy.
She’s Kevin’s biggest fan on and off the court
Mama Durant, as she’s known, often speaks publicly on television and in interviews about her support of her son.
“I’m Kevin’s biggest fan,” she told Essence in 2022. “He’s always going to be Kevin and that’s it. I understand the arena in which he’s in and being a professional athlete, you are going to have some who love him, but some don’t. I’m still his mom so it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what other people say. I enjoy him.”
She’s been the voice of gratitude to Kevin’s fans through his injuries
Durant dealt with a string of difficult injuries during the 2018-2019 season, coming back from a calf injury only to rupture his Achilles tendon during game 5 of the NBA finals. “To the fans all over the world who have sent us their prayers, who have contacted me over my social media, sent general responses, I’m just so grateful and our family is thankful,” Wanda told Good Morning America. “And so for that, we have complete gratitude.”
“He’s having a rough time right now … but we’re going to be okay,” she added.
She’s been celebrated on the big screen
In 2016, Lifetime made a movie about Wanda’s life called The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story. It centered around the struggles of raising two sons in very difficult circumstances and inspiring them to succeed. The movie was produced by Queen Latifah and starred Pauletta Washington.
She’s outspoken in defense of her son’s career choices
While Kevin has faced criticism in his basketball career, Wanda has always spoken up in his defense. When Kevin left the Golden State Warriors to join the Brooklyn Nets in 2022, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith made public comments that the athlete may have hurt his legacy by moving to a team where their performance on the court has been overshadowed by player Kyrie Irving’s controversial actions, per Bleacher Report.
Wanda responded on Twitter with some harsh words for Smith, saying in part, “when will you show up better?”
Smith responded publicly, saying, “She’s one of the most special people I’ve ever encountered in the NBA, and I love the NBA moms and they all know that. You can say whatever you want to me, about me, to my face, on Twitter, whatever the case may be. I’m gonna do nothing but show you the utmost respect and deference because that’s how I genuinely feel about you. So, I take no offense to what she said. She’s speaking up for her son and she has every right to do that.”
She’s an advocate for Graves disease and thyroid eye disease
Wanda was diagnosed with Graves disease, a thyroid disorder, 17 years ago — but she struggled to get a diagnosis of thyroid eye disease (TED), an affiliated condition, and is now working to bring awareness to the condition.
“Had I learned about the risk of TED sooner, I would have been more carefully monitoring my eyes and seeing a TED Eye Specialist,” Wanda told Ebony in 2022. “That’s why I’m on a mission to help others not live with this blind spot for as long as I have.”