x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Durant is a star we can look up to

What makes him unusual is the fact that when he spreads out his arms, he measures 7ft 5ins from fingertip to fingertip.

You might have thought that as Clay Bennett was trying to rip the Seattle Supersonics out of that northwestern US city, he and his team would attract some bad karma. At the very least, they earned a bit of bad luck for the obnoxious way in which they cheated the loyal Supersonics-following of their team. Instead, during the year this skulduggery took place, Bennett's Supersonics won second spot in the NBA draft lottery.

That draft had become the Greg Oden sweepstakes, so finishing second was in fact the best of luck because Bennett's basketball staff did not have to choose between the seemingly can't-miss Oden and the upstart Kevin Durant from the University of Texas. In hindsight, we can now say that Durant is the can't-miss kid. It is as though he was born for the sole purpose of playing basketball. At 6ft 9ins, he is the perfect height for his small forward position. He also has tremendous athleticism and basketball intelligence.

What makes him unusual is the fact that when he spreads out his arms, he measures 7ft 5ins from fingertip to fingertip. This gargantuan wingspan makes him all the more capable on the court. While he is somewhat skinny, he has proved that he has enough strength to survive the rigours of the NBA. In just his third season, Durant has come to dominate the league, averaging 29.8 points a game along with 7.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Yet he remains as humble as he was before basketball fans even knew his name.

What has made him so great? Those around him say that he is completely focused on becoming the best player he can be. Other than doing everything he can to get better at the game, I am told that he really does not have many other interests. His life is basketball. There are any number of factors that have made him the player he is today. I am told that he comes from a close family. That he embodies the spirit of a time when an athlete was simply an athlete and wanted nothing more than that. That he would rather extend his contract to stay in small-town Oklahoma City because it affords him the serenity to focus on his trade.

Another unusual aspect of Durant is the fact that he is not the typical teenaged basketball-playing star who lived a professional life before he signed his first professional contract. It is well-documented that he didn't even look for an agent until he was about to declare for the NBA draft. More often than not, however improper, star players at the youth level have already made tacit agreements with agents before they finish high school.

If there is a criticism, and this is certainly open to debate, it is that the young guy has not become a leader. At just 21 years of age, one could argue that Durant is still a few years away from having the maturity to assert himself and attempt to lead veterans who are often 10 years his senior. I for one think that he will bring things together when it feels right. If nothing else, leadership is said to be based on humility, a trait that those who know Durant say is his very essence.

The star of Oklahoma City seems like someone who landed his dream job and is happiest when he is practising his craft. The simplicity of his brilliance is the fact that he would rather play basketball than do anything else in the world. Durant is the sort of player who makes a hardened cynic want to again place faith in a sporting star. His future is wide open. Not only do I look forward to seeing him scale the heights of his profession, I sincerely hope that he does because the sports world needs icons of this sort. @Email:sports@thenational.ae