The day after Kevin Durant was named one of the five finalists for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for outstanding community service, the reigning Finals MVP was thrown out of his NBA-high fifth game on Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
It was the perfect juxtaposition for the Golden State Warriors’ superstar philanthropist and basketball’s resident villain. Rare is the player who spreads as much goodwill in the community and inspires so much controversy on the court.
Durant’s resume for the citizenship award, as voted on by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, is staggering.
Between his commitments to the University of Texas, the “Build It and They Will Ball” program, Colin Kaepernick’s “10 for 10” campaign, the Oakland Elizabeth House/Larkin Street Youth Services and the College Track program in his hometown of Prince George’s County, Md., Durant has committed more than $13 million to community causes this year.
Durant, who’s given out 1,600 Warriors tickets to kids, is a shining example of a Golden State team that is among the most generous and socially conscious in all of sports.
“I’m incredibly proud of all of our guys,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “So many of them do so much good in our communities. And, ultimately, that’s the biggest measure of the impact that we make as an organization and as players.”
Durant is building an empire on and off the floor. He runs the Durant Company with Rich Kleiman, his manager and business partner. Best compared to a private equity fund, rather than a venture capital firm, the Durant Company boasts a diverse portfolio, investing in approximately 30 tech companies like Postmates and Acorns.
Durant and Kleiman recently launched Thirty Five Media, which helps athletes create their own programming on YouTube. Durant’s personal channel has racked up more than 22.3 million views in a years’ time.
Nothing is more important than the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation, which serves at-risk youth from low-income backgrounds, providing them with educational, athletic and social programs.
“His foundation is not just something that we like check the box with, ‘Here’s rich basketball player. Let’s donate money,’” Kleiman explained on a recent episode of “The Bill Simmons Show.” “I mean, that’s his No. 1 passion. He told me that from Day 1.”
In February, Durant’s foundation made a 10-year, $10 million commitment to build The Durant Center, a educational and leadership facility in Prince George’s County.
Quinn Cook, Durant’s Warriors teammate, is uniquely positioned to understand the impact of the project, which is a partnership with College Track, an Oakland-based program that helps students from underserved communities graduate from college. Cook, who grew up 10 minutes away in Largo, Md., first met Durant when he was seven and the future MVP was 12.
“It means a lot to the community,” Cook said. “It’s not just the amount of money that he donated. It’s the constant support that he gives to the kids. He’s always back, showing his face.”
Cook idolized Durant growing up. The Warriors forward remains a giant in the area.
“He’s like a superhero — on and off the court — to the kids back home,” Cook explained.
It is against that backdrop that the superhero has emerged as a supervillain — at least in the eyes of legions of fans and media members around the basketball universe.
Whenever Durant tweets, his mentions are inundated with snake emojis, a reference to him slithering away from the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Warriors in the summer of 2016. Durant responds in kind, comporting himself like an internet troll. He endured his famous Twitter burner account fiasco in September and takes out reporters on Instagram in profanity-laced replies.
“Nobody gives a shit if you’re a fan or not lol,” Durant fired at a radio reporter who dared to criticize Warriors center Zaza Pachulia.
Durant has earned a reputation as a loose cannon at the keyboard and on the floor. He’s brought the hate on himself.
But after his Thursday night ejection, Durant was calm, cool and dismissive at the podium.
“Usually just bad calls I’m protesting. Pretty simple,” Durant said with a laugh when asked to explain the common thread between all his ejections. “You wanted a deeper reason?”
Durant earned the most recent ejection for stopping mid-play — after he believed a foul had been missed — and proceeding to hurl vulgarities at a referee.
“Is it a character flaw that I get thrown out of games?” Durant continued. “I hope not. I hope you don’t look at that way. Sheesh. Nah. Mainly just foul calls that I think are wrong and I tell them about it. They don’t like how I say it. I get tossed. I could definitely talk to them a little better, I guess.”
Durant’s dialogue with officials has been historically bad. Over the past 25 years, Durant’s five ejections are the third-most in a single season. The infamous Rasheed Wallace accrued seven ejections twice in his career.
As the Warriors prepare for yet another playoff charge, Durant remains as complicated a figure as there is. In the community he’s a saint. On the court, he’s still public enemy No. 1.