And while KD was thrilled to receive an honor alongside Kaepernick, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP credits the woke, free-agent quarterback in helping to change his perspective on race and being a Black man in America.
After signing with the Golden State Warriors in July 2016, Durant got to see history start to unfold when Kaepernick — then with the San Francisco 49ers — began kneeling during the national anthem in August and kept doing it over the duration of the 2016 NFL season as a protest against racism and the police brutality of unarmed Black men. And it changed the Warriors' All-Star forward's views.
"It definitely put me in a different place because we just started talking about stuff that’s always been going on," Durant told the San Jose Mercury News as part of a wide-ranging interview with the newspaper. "You tend to just focus on what you know, or focus on what you do every day, and sometimes you can be so far removed from where you grew up or from home that you don’t realize what’s going on back there. That’s not because you’re not woke, or you’re not involved. You want to set that aside because you see a better life and you want to focus on that, but you also have to realize that you left home for a reason. So you kind of bring something back so you can help elevate where you come from."
So, what does KD think about Kaepernick's protest, which took place in the same Bay Area that the Warriors share?
"I just love how he just did it. It was really out of nowhere," KD continued. "For the casual person, casual fan … I’m sure people that he was close to kind of seen it coming but for us, it was just like, 'Whoa.' He shocked everybody by doing that. The backlash he got from it immediately …"
Durant added: "You just see he touched something in people that we didn’t know was there. I posted a picture of him on my Instagram and the comments under that were ridiculous. The stuff that people were saying about him over that was ridiculous. He brought something out of people that they’d been hiding for a long, long time that needed to be revealed. I’d rather you tell me that you don’t like me because of my skin than hide that s**t."
And just like that, Durant, and millions more, became instant fans of Kaepernick and the stance that he bravely took.
"So, he kind of touched a nerve and the outrage from it made me a fan of him just because he decided to take all that on," Durant continued telling the San Jose Mercury News, "but also tell a message of, 'Yo man. Just treat us fair, treat us equal, we’re people too. We’re not less than you because we don’t look like you.'”
The introspective interview also has Durant wondering how different his life would have been as a Black man in America today if he wasn't an NBA superstar and household name.
"A Black man makes one mistake ... I see how far we get pushed down," Durant also told the San Jose Mercury News. "For me, I kind of grew up in this basketball world, whereas my talent kind of overrides what I look like. I didn’t have it as rough when it comes to that, as far as social or systematic oppression or any social issues. They didn’t really apply to me because I could put a ball in a basket. Just me saying that kind of woke me up a little bit, like, 'Damn, that’s all I’m good for?' Like, if I wasn’t a basketball player, what kind of man would they look at me as, you know what I’m saying?"
Woke views for sure.
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(Photos from Left: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for KWL, Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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