Though he missed Thursday night’s game against the Houston Rockets, Kevin Durant still made a pretty big contribution during the Warriors two-game Texas road trip—to his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin.
On Thursday, January 4th, the university announced that Durant would be making a $3 million donation to the athletic program, the largest donation by a former Longhorn athlete.
that the main entrance to Denton A. Cooley Pavilion -- where the men’s and women’s basketball teams practice -- will be named The Kevin Durant Texas Basketball Center, and the men’s facilities will be named The Kevin Durant Basketball Facility for Men.
Of Durant’s $3 million donation, $2.5 million has been earmarked for Texas basketball and will fund renovations to the locker rooms and practice courts, among other upgrades.
Durant, who attended the University of Texas in 2007, has frequently referred to his time in Austin as being instrumental to his development both as a basketball player and a person.
“My time as a Longhorn helped build the foundation for who I am today as a player and a person, and the UT team will always be my family,” Durant said in a statement. “It’s important to me to continue to give back to The University and ensure that future student-athletes have all the opportunities they need to succeed. It’s an honor to have such a close and unique relationship with Texas Basketball, and I’m grateful to be able to contribute.”
On Friday, January 5th, Durant traveled to Austin to be a part of the unveiling of the Kevin Durant Basketball Center on the University of Texas campus.
Kevin Durant at the revealing of the “Kevin Durant Texas Basketball Center.” pic.twitter.com/eWIPavelaF— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) January 5, 2018
Both university president Greg Fenves and new athletic director Chris Del Conte were at the event, along with men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart, and tweeted out their thanks to Durant for his support of the school and the athletic program.
What a pleasure it was paying tribute to @KDTrey5 today. Great spending time with him and you can feel the love he has for Texas. That’s really cool and we can’t thank him enough for his amazing support pic.twitter.com/ZNTLtaq3gp— Chris Del Conte (@_delconte) January 5, 2018
The difference b/t the good & the great is their willingness to sacrifice. Thanks @KDTrey5 for the sacrifices you’ve made & the generosity you’ve shown to @TexasMBB & @TexasSports pic.twitter.com/xLAzqBMAZg— Greg Fenves (@gregfenves) January 5, 2018
Though he only spent that single year in Austin, Durant clearly formed a strong attachment to the school as evidenced by his tweet linking to his video of the event.
Much has been made, in the wake of his decision to leave Oklahoma City to come play for the Warriors, of Durant’s loyalty. Not just in Oklahoma City but throughout the league, Durant is perceived as a “snake.”
But looking past the fact that Durant, as a free agent, was free to make whatever decision he wanted, his support of Texas athletics and his continued strong allegiance with the school really challenges that conception of Durant.
In the one-and-done era of college basketball, how often do you hear one of the elite players refer to the program in which they spent that year? How often do you hear Kyrie Irving discuss Duke? How many times has Andrew Wiggins brought up Kansas or, most recently, Markelle Fultz discuss Washington?
To be certain, there are examples of those players who only spent one year at a school remaining close to their program (the countless great players that have played at the University of Kentucky come to mind), but they are the exception rather than the rule.
But Durant, who could have very easily just forgotten about the program where he spent his only year of college basketball, maintains a close relationship with the University of Texas because of the effect it had on him both on and off the court.
This comes out in a piece on the event by the Austin American-Statesman’s Brian Davis:
Why did this skinny kid from Suitland, Md., just outside Washington come to Austin in the first place? “Coach Barnes told me I could shoot whenever I wanted to,” he said. But Durant’s always considered himself a lifelong Longhorn. It’s a place that “taught me how to be a man,” he said. [...] “I felt like this place helped mold me, helped me think about other stuff.
“I was always just thinking about basketball, but I started thinking about life, relationships, friendships, culture, brotherhood. I learned the game here on a different level. That’s why I feel like I’m so tight with the program. I may have played basketball here for one year, but I’ve been here every year since — for 10 years. It’s much more than basketball.”
Very similar themes and ideas are present in a piece by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau on the same event:
“He really has an affinity for this town, the culture, the people,” [Rich] Kleiman said. “Every time we come here, he gets excited. You should see him scrimmage with the guys. He’s like a kid again.” [...] Wearing a gray Texas sweat suit and black Longhorns hat Friday, Durant toured the refurbished basketball facility he helped make possible and gazed up at his retired number at Frank Erwin Center before addressing a room full of athletic department officials, donors and former teammates. His message was clear: Every time a player steps into the Kevin Durant Texas Basketball Center, he should remember that anything is possible.
That Durant has such a love for the city of Austin and its culture, which is one of the most unique in the country, makes his decision to come to the Warriors make even more sense. Between San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, the Bay Area is filled with places that mirror the best parts of Austin—the arts and culture, the good food, the diversity of opinions and people (and, sadly, the high cost of living).
But, perhaps most importantly, what stands out for Durant is that the University of Texas was the place that gave him his shot, the opportunity to become one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the sport. Because they gave him that opportunity, the chance to develop into the person and player that could do all these great things, Durant wants to repay them and those who will follow in his footsteps.
For those who would contend that Durant is a “snake” or not loyal, I would encourage them to look at his track record with the University of Texas and reconsider what they’re saying.