I am not a big NBA fan, although I did attend Monday night’s Oklahoma City Thunder playoff game, thanks to my 16-year-old son Keaton, who bought me a ticket.
I am becoming a big Kevin Durant fan.
It’s hard to witness Durant’s rare combination of extreme talent and uncommon humility and not be impressed. The latest example came Tuesday when a teary-eyed Durant won his first NBA Most Valuable Player Award and — in a speech for the sports ages — deflected the attention from himself.
Some of the Twitter reactions from my friends:
If you haven't seen @KDTrey5 's MVP acceptance speech-that was stunning. His story. Humility. What a beautiful role model for my children.
— Josh Graves (@joshgraves) May 7, 2014
Finally getting to watch video of @KDTrey5 speech at MVP ceremony today. Wow. This is the stuff of sports legend. Just amazing.
— Steve's OKC Central (@stevelackmeyer) May 7, 2014
No way to be anything but encouraged once you listen to @KDTrey5 MVP speech! True class and sportsmanship. Need more athletes like KD!
— ABaker (@BeAnEncourager) May 7, 2014
My own reaction:
— Bobby Ross Jr. (@bobbyross) May 7, 2014
And yes, one friend made a specific request for this GetReligion critique:
@bobbyross How about a get religion breakdown on Kevin Durant's acceptance speech or at least the coverage of it.
— Kevin Gordon (@kgordonflash) May 7, 2014
My friend obviously noticed that Durant began — and ended — his speech by thanking God:
First off, I’d like to thank God for changing my life. (He) let me realize really what life is all about. Basketball is just a platform in order for me to inspire people, and I realize that.
At the end:
I’d just like to thank God again. You’re the first and the last. Alpha and Omega. I thank you for saving my life.
In between, Durant made a third reference to God when talking about Tony Weaver, the Thunder’s vice president and assistant general manager:
God directed our paths to work together, and it’s been everything and more.
Also in the speech:
Dad, it’s been an up-and-down road for all of us, but you’ve always been there supporting from afar, texting me Bible verses every single day. Telling me you love me every single day. That builds me up, and I thank you so much.
So God made Durant’s speech, but did God make the media reports on the speech? Not so much.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — In accepting his first MVP award, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant made a point of sharing the honor with those who made it possible.
In a soul-baring speech that lasted more than 25 minutes, Durant fought back tears several times while thanking each of his teammates, the coaches, support staff and team executives, and finally his family. The emotional outpouring culminated with a tribute to his mother, Wanda Pratt, and the sacrifices she made, the inspiration she provided while raising Durant and his brother in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
“You made us believe,” Durant said to Pratt, who was at the ceremony in Edmond, Oklahoma. “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 sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”
How easy would it have been to slip “thanking God” right before “each of his teammates,” etc.? I mean, it certainly would have improved the accuracy and completeness of the story, right?
I read my hometown newspaper, The Oklahoman, in print replica form on my iPad. The Durant MVP story filled the entire front page — of the newspaper, not the Sports section — with the headline “Durant’s Tears of Joys.” From that story:
No one grew more emotional than Durant himself, the man who once proclaimed he was tired of finishing second and finally broke through after three second-place finishes in MVP voting in the past four seasons.
But on the day reserved for Durant to finally embrace his individual achievements, he endeared himself even more to the masses by unexpectedly displaying more humility.
In a surprising but sensational 26-minute acceptance speech, Durant took time to thank those closest to him.
Those closest to him? The story mentions his family, his friends and his teammates.
On the front of the Sports section, The Oklahoman featured two more columns — one focused on Durant’s humanity and the other on his love for his mother. Any mention of God in either of those columns? Uh-uh.
I know that my friend Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman’s religion editor, is a big Thunder fan and watched the speech.
Listened to KD's remarks at the MVP event and shed a few tears. Very heartwarming speech.
— Carla Hinton (@OKRelig) May 6, 2014
Perhaps Carla called dibs on the faith angle and we can expect a follow-up? Or maybe there’s a perfectly logical reason why the leading newspaper in a state that’s supposedly at the heart of the Bible Belt can’t bring itself to mention God’s role in Durant’s life? If so, I’d love to know it.