Kevin Durant’s hometown goes blue and gold for Warriors’ parade
Seat Pleasant Activity Center takes pride in the first-time NBA champion and Finals MVP who grew up there
There’s no mistaking that the Seat Pleasant Activity Center in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, is the community center that raised Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant into the deadly assassin on the court he is today.
As soon as one makes the right-hand turn off Martin Luther King Jr. Highway onto Addison Road, there’s a welcome sign with announcements rotating by the minute, including one with a yellow background and blue letters that says “Good luck, Kevin Durant!”
Walk into the facility and be consumed by the things Durant has donated: flat-screen TVs, scoreboards, a game room where his pictures and awards line the wall, and stickers all over the place. Walk outside and around the back to see the new courts he just donated to the Seat Pleasant Elementary School and the community center.
On Thursday, all of the TVs in the Seat Pleasant Activity Center (SPAC) were on the Warriors’ championship parade in Oakland, California. Three days earlier, Seat Pleasant’s favorite son won his first NBA title and was named Finals MVP, helping Golden State earn its second title in three years against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Melvin McCray, a 25-year veteran of the facility and the director of child care development, sat down at a desktop with the parade playing on the screen. In the midst of his responsibilities, the parade slipped his mind. No worries, a co-worker told McCray he is recording it. McCray sighed with relief — this is not the kind of moment he wanted to miss.
Durant finally has his NBA title and Finals MVP to go along with his NBA MVP trophy and Olympic gold medals. One title, McCray said, will not satiate Durant, who set big goals for himself as a child.
“It was a lot of weight on his shoulders,” McCray said of Durant’s move to the Warriors. “To me it showed courage, because if you’re doing something outside of the norm, something that you know you’re going to be criticized for, to me that takes a lot of courage and a lot of heart to make yourself that vulnerable, to open yourself up to criticism.
“It was a lot of pressure put on him from the outside, but his inner circle not so much, because we’re used to Kevin doing things for other people, that we’re like, ‘Finally. You’re doing something for you to make you happy and to make sure your basketball career is going in the direction that you want it to go in.’ ”
Folks in the game room were watching the parade, employees in the back room were recording it, and the boys in the gym were running through drills.
The love that Durant has for Seat Pleasant, Prince George’s County and the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia) is reciprocated by the people who work, play and live here. As Wizard Kelly used to say on The Proud Family, it really did start with an orange basketball. Durant has used every one of his biggest moments — the NBA draft, NBA MVP speech, Finals MVP speech — to shout out the area that raised him.
And McCray and other SPAC employees, who refer to Durant as Kevin and not KD, have watched his maturation since he was an 8-year-old. They were the ones greeted by a young Durant as they opened up the SPAC, the ones who would implore him to get lunch as he continued to put up shots past the lunchtime hour, the ones who would find him sleeping behind a curtain after he spent the entire day practicing.
That curtain no longer exists, thanks to a donation from Durant to bring in a new divider for the indoor gym. The 29-year-old has donated more than $100,000 to revitalize the community center.
McCray said what is most valuable is the time Durant has given the kids and aspiring basketball players who flock to the gym. Durant has given them someone to look up to and someone to whom they can relate, as he knows exactly where they’re coming from and what they’re going through.
“They have an actual person that they can see; an actual person that they can touch; an actual person that they can talk to; an actual person that they can say, ‘He came from the same places I came from, and he walked through the same doors that I walk through,’ ” McCray said. “So they can see it’s attainable. He’s probably going to say let’s play one-on-one with someone, whether he knows them or not.”
Dexter Turner is one of those aspiring basketball players. Turner was putting up shots Thursday with his wireless Beats headphones on, signaling he was zoned in. The 20-year-old Prince George’s County Community College student said he’s been playing with Durant since he could walk. Turner’s mom worked at the SPAC, so he joked he was literally born there.
Similar to Durant, Turner has a lankier build and said he plays best when it’s an up-and-down, fast-paced game. He’s in the gym every day if he can be, for two to three hours, lifting weights, dribbling, shooting or running through drills.
When Turner has questions or just wants some advice on the game or life, he can text Durant. When Durant’s in town, Turner can study him to get a better idea of how to improve his game.
Durant is an avid video gamer, but Turner has beaten — he said — the 2014 NBA MVP several times, with the best team that is left in NBA 2K (usually the Cavaliers or the San Antonio Spurs) after Durant picks the Warriors.
“I’ve met him plenty of times; he’s like a brother to me,” Turner said. “He is a great person. He likes to interact with kids and people. He’ll talk to you, just like I’m talking to you.
“Play him in a video game and he’s losing — it’s over. I don’t lose in 2K.”
After talking to Turner, McCray called his nephew, Dwight “Rick” Bell. Bell took the call from Las Vegas, where his brother Charlie, one of Durant’s longtime friends, is celebrating his birthday. Rick Bell’s excitement was palpable in discussing not only his childhood friend but also how big of a moment it was for those in Seat Pleasant to watch Durant win this championship.
“It’s amazing, man. It’s like a win for the whole area where you come from,” Rick Bell said. “He put us on the map. It just makes my whole city happy to see him win the championship like that. Growing up with him, he’s always been a hard worker. Work hard, play hard.
“He was always putting in the extra work on the sideline. He was always better than everybody his age, but he was always a humble guy. We just love Kevin in the area. He’s a good guy.”
Asked whether the community center will get a visit from Durant this summer, McCray smiled.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “I’m not saying it’ll be today or tomorrow, but it’ll be 100 percent that he’ll come within this month. No doubt in my mind.”