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Raising boys to be men

Wanda Durant’s side of the game

“The difficult part is that I can teach him what courage looks like from a female perspective — but in order for him to have it ingrained into who he is as man, it has to come from a man’s perspective. Courage is always going to be courage but how it’s carried out from male to female I think is quite different. It’s an intricate difference. I don’t know what courage feels like as a man, but I do know courage.” – Wanda Durant

Most of today’s NBA stars are ’80s babies. This was the era when the Chicago Bulls dominated pro basketball – way before Michael Jordan crying was even conceivable, never mind something that could go viral.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant was born Sept. 22, 1988, to Wanda Durant. He is the second of two sons. His older brother is Anthony, whom they call Tony. Jordan won his first league MVP Award the same year Kevin was born. Little did Wanda know that 26 years later Kevin would become the NBA’s MVP.

Kevin’s genuine words during his 2014 MVP speech touched Wanda. He painted a picture that was perfect to him. “You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You the real MVP.” As her tears flowed, she remembered his hard work and dedication to basketball.

“I remember people not believing in his talents when he was so thin. I remember coaches walking past him and not acknowledging him. I remember the times when he wanted to quit. To see him overcome all of that at that moment — that’s what really kind of struck an emotional chord for me. Then of course that’s my baby. He was held up as the best player in the league that year,” Wanda told The Undefeated.

The reality of Wanda’s life is that she raised two boys as a single mom. But for that she has never looked for sympathy and never wanted praise.

The day before Mother’s Day this month, Wanda shared her experiences of raising Tony and Kevin. She had teamed with Queen Latifah to bring her inspiring story in the Lifetime movie “The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story.” Executive-produced by Latifah, Wanda and Shakim Compere, the film depicts her dedication to raise one of the greatest basketball players in the world.

“As I was watching the movie on set, I sat back and I really got a little emotional about it,” Wanda said. “It was a long process, a little scary watching my life played out on TV.”

The movie reveals how many hats she wore as a single mother.

“For the majority of my sons’ lives, I had to switch roles quickly and at the drop of a dime. So I had to give the hugs but I also had to give the stern looks and make the hard calls on discipline. But it paid off because they are both doing very well. I just wanted them to know that you have to go over and beyond of what’s required. You can never just settle for what’s required,” Wanda said.

Wanda introduced Tony and Kevin to sports when Kevin was 7 years old. She wanted them to focus on something outside the home and football was her first choice.

“They played football for a few seasons, then they gravitated to basketball,” she said.

Wanda played basketball in junior high school. After her sons moved to organized basketball, she morphed into a mother and a coach. She developed coaching skills from Charles Craig, one of Kevin’s first basketball coaches. He was shot and died on April 30, 2005, in Laurel, Md. He was 35.

Kevin met Craig when he was 8 years old at the Seat Pleasant Recreational Center in a Maryland suburb, where he was taught the basics of basketball. He learned of Craig’s death when he was a junior at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.

Durant now wears the No. 35 jersey to honor Craig.

“They [Kevin’s coaches] taught me that Kevin should not play pickup ball around the gym, that he should focus on the skills of basketball and how he would shoot and the endurance of basketball,” Wanda explained.

She said the hardest part of being a single mom to a professional player is simply enjoying the special moments.

“We’re the same people that we were from day one. There were times I remember just being so busy with all the things that came with having a professional athlete as a son that I didn’t sit back and enjoy the moments of it.”

Wanda’s accustomed to the spotlight now. She has a newfound passion. She travels throughout the United States and shares her life experiences with women of all ages — especially single mothers.

Her efforts to encourage single mothers started during the 2011 NBA lockout, the fourth in the league’s history. Kevin donated $100,000 he’d raised hosting basketball exhibitions to the Single Parent Support Network of Oklahoma City. He thought it would be fitting for Wanda to present the donation.

She never knew her life would change that day.

“I went and gave a few words of encouragement and shared my life as a single parent. That evening the women seemed to really take hold to things that I was saying. I got a notebook of all the comments that the women had made and it really touched my heart. Then I believed that my purpose in life was to share my life story so that other women can see that no matter how hard it is through the good and the bad times, you can always persevere and you can continue,” she shared.

As a woman, raising boys to be men comes with its own particular set of difficulties. Wanda overcame those struggles and remains undefeated.

“I did the best that I could do to instill those things in him. There were really positive men in my sons’ lives throughout the years that helped mold them into the men that they are. They knew who their father was. Currently they have a relationship with their father.”

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.