By Rob Johnson
Special to S.F. Examiner
CHARLOTTE — Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte may have been Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry’s homecoming, but it was his teammate Kevin Durant who stole the headlines.
In 2014, when Durant won the regular-season NBA MVP, he gave a memorable and emotional speech dedicated to his mother Wanda, and the sacrifices she had made for him and the family. Wanda was by his side on Sunday night, when her son earned his second All-Star Game MVP honors — becoming the 14th player to win the award multiple times.
Durant — LeBron James’ No. 1 draft pick on a team full of soon-to-be free agents — scored 31 points, shot a hyper-efficient 10-for-15 from the field, including 6-for-9 from 3-point range.
Now the owner of three NBA titles, back-to-back Finals MVP awards, the regular-season MVP and the two All-Star MVPs, Durant — almost certain to opt out of his contract at the end of the season — clutched the game ball from Sunday night’s win tightly in his right hand during post-game interviews.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Durant became the sixth player ever to have won an NBA Most Valuable Player Award (2014) in addition to multiple NBA Finals MVPs (2017, 2018) and NBA All-Star MVPs (2012, 2019), joining Kobe Bryant, James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.
“It’s all sweet to me. I mean, it’s hard to rank. Everything’s special,” said Durant. “But it’s cool to be out there with some of the best players to ever play the game, and to win an MVP here in front of my family and friends is pretty sweet. I just keep trying to rack them up, I guess.”
In the hallway outside the locker room, after the game, Durant hugged Warriors teammate Klay Thompson, who will also be a free agent at the end of the season.
Thompson — who finished with 20 points for Team LeBron, including 6-for-12 from 3-point land — had members of his family in attendance as well, meeting up with his father — former Los Angeles Laker and current Lakers broadcaster Mychal Thompson — right on the Spectrum Center floor.
Thompson’s Lakers ties and the fact that James drafted him have sparked rumors that, like Durant, James and the Lakers are still trying to woo Thompson, though he and his father have continued to insist that he plans to re-sign with the Warriors next season.
Thompson and Curry, a Charlotte native playing for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team — got to play on opposite sides of the ball for the first time in their careers outside of practice, and as such, got a handful of opportunities to guard each other.
When Thompson entered the game in the first quarter, he bumped Curry backwards in the post and turned around and tried to shoot an eight-foot jumper over his Golden State teammate. Thompson missed, and then the chatter began.
Later on in the game, Thompson fouled Curry on a 3-pointer, which turned into a four-point play. Thompson jokingly flapped his hand at Curry in disbelief and Curry fired back by rapidly doing the flip of the wrist, count-the-basket hand gesture.
“It was so fun to see,” said Durant. “Those guys are always joking around and seeing who can make the most shots. Their chemistry together is second to none. So we know we’re going to be talking about that play, those two plays for the next couple of days. It was good to see Steph knock that shot down over Klay, because Klay is always talking trash to him. Those guys had a lot of fun tonight, and I’m looking forward to having even more fun the second half of the season.”
Even with Curry and the rest of Team Giannis blowing a 20-point lead, they still put on a show. Halfway through the second-quarter, Curry got roars from the Charlotte crowd with a one-handed bounce pass alley-oop toAntetokounmpo over the lengthy Durant.
The very last points of the game shocked all of Spectrum, Curry — who finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists — put in a reverse two-handed dunk off of a bounce alley-oop to himself.
“For all of you all that saw me in L.A. a couple months ago,” said Curry, referring to a would-be dunk that turned into a slip-and-fall at the Staples Center against the Lakers. “I redeemed myself. So that was the best part of my night for sure.”