Kevin Durant and His Father

Kevin Durant and His Father May 22, 2014

Leonard Pitts Jr:

Thank you, Leonard Pitts!

Maybe you heard about the tribute Kevin Durant paid his mother a week ago. You probably missed the one he paid his dad….

In a voice choked with tears, Durant, a ferociously talented forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, thanks God. He thanks each teammate by name, thanks his coach, support staff, brothers, friends, grandmother, fans, the sportswriters who voted for him. And in the part that will have you clearing your throat and discovering a foreign particle in your eye, he speaks directly to his mother.

“The odds were stacked against us,” he says. “Single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old. . . . We moved from apartment to apartment by ourselves. One of the best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture, and we just all sat in the living room and just hugged each other. We thought we’d made it.”…

By contrast, Durant’s acknowledgment of his father is short and almost perfunctory. He notes the “up and down road” they have traveled, the support his father has given “from afar.” He tells him he loves him, but he lavishes less emotion on Wayne Pratt than he does Russell Westbrook who’s only a teammate, or Scott Brooks, who’s only his coach.

The intention here is not to indict father or son. No, the intention is simply to say this:

The absence of fathers matters.

We have evolved a society wherein we pretend the opposite is true. The disappearance of fathers is now nearly the norm. Almost one in four American children lives in a household without their biological dads. For brown kids, that number stands at about 28 percent. For black kids, it’s a little better than half….

And we tell ourselves it’s OK, that this haphazardness has no impact on the child, that father is not irreplaceable, that his disappearance leaves no scar. But the statistics on poverty, drug use, education and incarceration suggest otherwise. So, in a different sense, does Durant’s speech — a glowing encomium to the woman who brought him through his earliest years alone, a scattering of obligatory words for the man who was not there.

As such, the speech was a testimony to the power of a mother’s love. But it was also a reminder:

A father’s absence has power, too.

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