By Randy Renner
Kevin Durant has been called a "future Hall of Famer" for a while because of his amazing feats on the basketball court.
Now you can drop the "future" and just go ahead and refer to the Thunder superstar as a Hall of Famer, partially for his efforts on the court but mostly because of his character and commitment to community off the court.
Durant and seven other Oklahomans, including Hobart native Bill Hancock who runs the College Football Playoff Committee, were inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame last night in Tulsa.
Durant of course had no ties to Oklahoma until he moved to Oklahoma City along with the Seattle SuperSonics franchise which then became the Thunder.
And now after living much of the last eight years here KD considers Oklahoma City almost as much of a hometown as the place where he grew up back in Maryland.
“Growing up here as teenager to a young man, I've been through a lot here,” Durant said of his time in OKC. “It's just molded me into who I am and everything I've done. Whether it's just letting people know where I live or who I play for, it's all from the heart. I've been through so much being here and it feels great to be in the Hall of Fame."
The guy who signs KD's paychecks was there to welcome him in the Hall. Thunder chairman Clay Bennett was inducted a few years ago.
“It means so much to me because this is about Oklahoma. Kevin has truly transformed who we are,” Bennett said. “He’s brought so much pride, so much energy and has brought so much to young people. I think it’s fantastic that this organization recognized him. He’s so very deserving. My heart is bursting. I could not be more proud.”
Bennett was joined by Thunder GM Sam Presti, head coach Billy Donovan, all of Donovan's assistants and all of the Thunder players.
Veteran Nick Collison, who moved to Oklahoma City with Durant for that first season of Thunder basketball, said the honor is well deserved.
"He's left his mark on the city and I think he's done everything the right way," Collison told reporters Thursday afternoon before leaving for Tulsa. "Oklahomans should be and they are very proud of him and proud of what he's done here. It's a real nice honor."
Donovan pointed out Durant, Collison. Russell Westbrook (who presented Durant for induction) and Serge Ibaka all share something special and perhaps rather unique among pro athletes.
"Those guys can feel really, really good because I don't know if there's a lot of players in different organizations that can say they started with an organization at the infant stages and helped be a part of really building it up," he pointed out. "And I think that's the one thing that's unique for him and what he's done that I'm sure he's very proud of."
Even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was there to help honor one of the greats of the game.
“It shows what an enormous impact he’s had over a relatively short time,” Silver said. “I travel the world on behalf of the NBA. When you say Oklahoma, you think Kevin Durant. That’s the way it should be. It makes me really proud to be associated with him and the league.”
During his induction speech Durant told the audience it didn't take him long "to realize the core values of Oklahomans," which aligned perfectly with his own.
"Hard work, resiliency, humility. It made me a better man."
Durant said he wished the stage was big enough last night "to fit everyone in Oklahoma," and he thanked the people in general "for the love you show me and my family."
"This is truly amazing," he said as he began to wrap up his remarks. "A kid from Maryland going into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Dreams really do come true. I appreciate everybody and hopefully we'll be here next year for Russell Westbrook's induction."
Durant chose his superstar teammate for the honor of presenting him for induction. It wasn't something Westbrook took lightly.
“Kevin is one of those special guys," he said, "especially in Oklahoma. He’s done so much for the city and the state.”
The same can be said of Westbrook whose charitable giving of his time and his money rival even Durant's so who knows, by this time next year the Thunder may very well another Hall of Famer to honor.