When the NBA is an extreme sport

"He's still my baby," Pratt said. "But he's grown into a wonderful young man. I'm proud of him. I'm proud of all his accomplishments. I'm proud of who he's become. He's always been this loving, humble person. I'm proud to see that in this world of the NBA and the celebrity that he has, that he's continued to allow Kevin to shine through."

The world of the NBA, the culture of celebrity. The way she mentioned them implied a bit of wonder that he had maintained decency and integrity in spite of inhabiting those two places. From her son's side, she has obtained a close enough look at both of them to know how difficult that can be.

Maybe it would have been harder if he'd spent the bulk of his career elsewhere. Oklahoma City isn't so obscure that companies can't find him to pitch their products, but it's small enough for him to absorb its community values, to feel close enough to the citizens that he took to the tornado-ravaged streets last year to offer his presence in addition to a seven-figure relief donation.

"There's so many things that try to bring us down in Oklahoma," Durant said. "From natural disasters to the Oklahoma City bombing.

"We just try to shine a bright light and bring life to people. Having something like this represents what we're about. We fall down. We get up. We may finish second. But we keep fighting, 'til we finish first."

I left the Thunder's building, but when you're in Oklahoma City, you never really stray far from the Thunder. On the way back downtown, I passed by a Thunder flag flying above a sign that read "Forklifts For Sale." There was a Thunder Up banner on a building and "Let's Go Thunder" painted on a window. There were more Thunder flags and billboards.

Durant turned this day into a celebration of his teammates. The city wanted to express its gratitude to him.

You didn't have to be sappy to get caught up in the sentiment of it all.

Of course, you didn't have to be much of a cynic to think this day could have taken place in Seattle.

It's the NBA. There's plenty of room for both views.

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