Kevin Durant on the KD11, His Past with Nike and Speaking His Mind

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There’s a group of high school kids running full court at Nike’s NYHQ. A few of them are extra bouncy, winding up for one-handed windmill dunks and tomahawks that might dent the rim. Their coaches, who are only a few years older than them, are emphatically screaming over the music that’s playing, shouting out defensive instructions and talking a little bit of trash.

Kevin Durant’s off to the side of the court shooting the photos that you see below. He’s a two-time NBA champion, more than a decade older than these hoopers, with an Olympic Gold Medal and four scoring titles to his name. But he can’t stop watching the action. Every single second that he’s not posing, his eyes are on the court to his right. He’s not being a diva about it, either. He’s laughing and fooling around with our photographer, cheesing and mean-mugging. But this dude is legitimately obsessed with the game—that much is clear.


He stops for a moment to speak with the young bulls. “Y’all know me, I just hoop,” he says, almost like he expects the same from them. Just go and play.

He gifts the kids with KD11s and daps up a few of them. A little bit later he takes a moment to watch them get after it. He’s got this mini-smile curling up the entire time he’s peeping game.

On this day, it’s a month since Durant tore down the Cavaliers in a monumental Game 3 performance, capped by a clutch three-pointer from the left wing that effectively won the Finals. There he stood, for a beat. No smile. Centerstage with venom radiating off him. Eyes motionless. A cold-blooded killer.

Durant’s at the height of his powers and people are mad about it. Real mad. From talk shows to Twitter, there’s nobody in the League that receives the amount of hate that comes his way. And he knows it. He’s quick to snap on foolish Twitter users or ill-informed journalists, forever trying to guard himself against the hostility.

But there’s no denying his greatness anymore. It’s time to recognize: he’s one of the most gifted scorers the game has ever seen. And when he’s not being constantly attacked, he’s just tryna chill.


Durant’s friendly and a little quiet at our shoot. He’s being trailed by a squad of people but he doesn’t carry that hectic vibe. His energy is way more Cali than it is New York.

He has the KD11 in-hand and on-foot throughout our time with him. The Swoosh officially linked up with him a few weeks after he was selected with the second pick in the ’07 draft. He had been wearing Nike and Jordan Brand for years by that point. A two-high school product, he played in the Air Jordan XIV at Montrose Christian (MD) and then in the Jordan Melo 1.5 at Oak Hill (VA). He then wore the Nike Air Max Enforcer for most of his one season with the Texas Longhorns.

His relationship with Nike dates back to his time in Virginia when he met a Nike rep as a high school sophomore.

“I fell in love with wanting to have my own shoe, wanting to have my own brand and that grew for me as I grew as a player,” Durant remembers. “Once I got out of college I had a couple of options on the table and I was like, No way I’m going with anyone but Nike. Then as I got closer to being an NBA player, it became a reality and it’s just a dream come true.”

He’s one million miles away from that rookie who was wearing the Nike Air Flight School silhouette in Seattle. Now he’s a certified, first ballot Hall of Famer with two championships and the potential to add more. He’s evolved into way more than the bucket-getter he’s been since his time in the Lone Star State. His game has become fluid. He swims his way over to block shots from the weak side. He melts defenses, opening up passing lanes, distributing pinpoint passes from within the arc. He glides around the court, using that left to right crossover to sink opponents.

Then when it’s time to get points on the board, there’s no one better. Two-dribble pull-ups in the midrange, extended lay-ups at the front of the rim, fadeaways from the post, dead-eye accuracy on his catch-and-shoot three-pointers.

Durant’s got an arsenal that stays reserved for the elite. He’s earned his way to the top. One of his favorite quotes is “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” And he’s building up his sneaker portfolio to match the success of his on-court résumé.


The 11 has a state-of-the-art design and it could become one of the defining silhouettes of the KD line. It features a brand-new cushioning setup that makes use of two different technologies. Leo Chang, Design Director for Nike Basketball, hit the 11 with the Swoosh’s React technology, Nike’s newest midsole foam, lighter, softer, bouncier and more durable than anything else they’ve put out. He combined that with a full-length Zoom Air unit, their basketball’s cushioning staple. React, shaping up to be a powerhouse, has only made it to the NBA hardwood in the 2017 Hyperdunk and the Jordan Super. Fly 2017, making the KD11 a pioneering sneaker.

It’s the type of innovation that takes some getting used to. Durant’s previous two sneakers both had similar midsole tooling, operating with Zoom Air units. He’s very particular about his footwear, often beating the same pair into the ground. He wore the “What The” KD10 for the last 11 games of the 2018 playoffs. So he was initially skeptical of the React and Zoom.

“I can’t lie, it was a little uncomfortable because for the last two seasons I wore the same kind of sole and it felt great,” he says. Both of those shoes also featured Flyknit uppers. “I’m comfortable in something I like, to stay candid. So when I first threw the 11s on, it took me a while to feel comfortable in my new ride. But now it feels great. It’s really bouncy, real comfortable when I throw them on. The shoes I had in the past, the reason why I stayed in them so long is that it would be uncomfortable when I first unboxed them and tried to play in them. I threw these on for the first time and worked out in them and they just feel amazing.”

Chang laughs when asked about KD’s first reaction to the 11.

“Definitely, he was a little skeptical at first,” he says. “It’s a fairly drastic change on the Zoom that we had on 9 and 10. So it just takes some time, but he loves it now.”

The rest of the 11 was also majorly switched up. The Flyknit pattern was updated to be plusher than the ones that appeared on the 9 and 10. It’s been built specifically for Durant with yarn that makes it feel like a down blanket. The silhouette was heightened, losing that low-cut that had been standard in the KD line since the 6. There’s a big heel counter in the back and a pull tab, too.

“It’s just centered around everything that goes into getting up and perfecting my craft,” Durant says of the 11. “I think just the mindset that I have as I look to get better as a player is what I try to tell through my shoes.”

Durant, on the low, has been interested in films and storytelling for a minute now. He took an acting class in college, had a digital video series during the lockout called “Kevin Durant’s 35th Hour,” starred in a feature film, appeared in a Nike Air Mag short video and now has his own YouTube channel. With everything that’s going on around him, with all the toxicity that follows him, the 29-year-old is trying to share his story, his way, through sneakers or any other medium he can.

“Different forms of expression have always been my thing and I think I say a lot about myself and who I am when I play, but it’s kind of hard for people to translate that into words,” he says. “I just try to give back stories and experiences that I’ve been through and hopefully it relates to someone and it helps. I guess that’s just my main goal out of everything, to always put back good energy, inspiring energy. Hopefully, it sticks.”

We ask him to share the story of when he saw his first signature sneaker.

“Man, Leo brought me a sample during my rookie season, toward the end of my rookie season, and I was pumped to see it, you know? Your first one, it always has to have that original Nike feel, the big Nike check. I feel like everybody’s first shoe is that basic and I saw mine’s and it was just the next one in line.”

There goes that little smile again.

“There’s depth there,” Chang says about both KD and his sneakers. “There’s that purity to his game. That pure form of basketball we wanted to capture. That purity with the simplicity.”

Durant hits up Dyckman Park when he dips from our shoot at Nike NYHQ. Basketball doesn’t get much more pure and authentic than the park. He gets a few shots up and poses for an endless stream of selfies when he arrives. Then he sits down at halfcourt next to Quinn Cook, his teammate from the Warriors, to catch the game. He stays seated for most of his time at the park but he pops up when a one-on-one battle gets heated. With each passing bucket, the crowd at Dyckman gets louder, hungry for another. Durant and Cook ended up on the asphalt by the time the back-and-forth isolations have stopped. The reigning champs leave a few moments later when the crowd has calmed down.

Durant hadn’t been to Dyckman since he played there in 2011, in the middle of the NBA lockout. He was touring the country that summer, playing in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Oklahoma City, Washington, D.C. and even going international, to China. He was lacing up the KD3 for a while that summer and then he unveiled the KD4, which many consider being his best sneaker.

The 4 just received a retro release, decked out in a Thunder-blue-and-white colorway, as part of the “Art of a Champion” pack. Chang plays it off when asked about bringing other pairs back.

“Our Nike Sportswear team handles a lot of the retro stuff so there may be some stuff in the future but you never know,” he says. “We’ll see. Honestly, I don’t know what their plans are.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Durant says with more enthusiasm. “I wanna retro the ‘Creamsicle’ 2s. Those joints were probably my favorite ones to wear and the color was just so dope. I wanted to see if we could throw those back out there. But we’ll see what happens.”

Durant posts a video to Instagram the very next day. He’s back at Nike NYHQ, in the KD11, getting his work in with Cook and Rod Strickland, who played in the League for nearly 20 years. Because through all the hate and the criticism, two things remain true. One, KD’s the champ until someone knocks him off the top of the mountain. That’s just a fact. And secondly, he’s obsessed with the game of basketball.

Hate all you’d like, but you’ve gotta respect it.

Max Resetar is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

Photos by Atiba Jefferson, Nike, and Getty.


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Current vs. Legend

Basketball, and sports in general are debatable; in barbershops, gyms, cookouts, bars, etc. What I know is this in the Jordan vs. LeBron conversation is this. There would not have been a day where Jordan would have minded the competition of a 6’8″ guy and showing that he was the one that was it. He did it with Dominique Wilkins. The analyst want to make it seem as if they are just hypothetically speaking of now vs. then. They have made their choices.

My opinion isn’t based on numbers; it is based on the assassin’s mentality. LeBron doesn’t have it and it has shown repeatedly. Had those two matched up back then r place Jordan in this era he would still dominate the league. Today with the rules as they are he would be unstoppable.

Let the conversations begin.

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Cavaliers capture History for the city of Cleveland

The NBA finals were history making and a little of fairy tale. There were villains on both teams and darlings on both teams you had Draymond and his antics along with what Steph and the Warriors thought they were fighting the “Officials”. Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving did their jobs very well and at a high level too. It was the Warriors series to lose and lose they did, they made history all season long even in loss they made history. They were the first team ever in the history of the NBA to lose a finals series with a 3-1 lead on their opponent. The series itself was not that great though the way the game is played today is a little faster but more calls to get the offensive players loose to be able to score. Because that is what fans want to see is a high score, or so that’s what many of the spin-off shows sponsored by the league says anyway. The play was well a little more restrictive to me being a defensive minded player myself. That is why us older guys are not out there now. A lot of them are in a coaches’ role or some type of supporting role that gives the younger generation some toughness.

Hats go off to the Cavaliers for being able to pull something like this off. Coming from a 3-1 deficit against the team that won 73 games and only lost 9.

The Warriors though they have a tough summer to get through this year, to know that you had a team down 3-1 one and couldn’t finish them is really confidence drainer, even if you did win 73 games in the regular season. This was the time to show that you are the team to beat and rest on your regular season reputation. Everybody who has played basketball at any level knows that you have to take the wins no one gives them to you. They didn’t take what they wanted, Steph shot jump shots he has the same ball control as Kyrie but he didn’t use it. He could have gotten in the lane just as Kyrie did but he didn’t. When in the final series of the season all the injuries and everything go out the window. I know the organizations are worried about their stars but they also want that championship if their star can get it to them. The Warriors stars could have given their city another championship. I think they bailed on the hard work that it was going to take to get over the hump called the Cavaliers. It was almost apparent that as the Warriors got even the slightest lead in any of the games after the first two they were going to coast. I don’t think that was Coach Steve Kerr’s thoughts but the players other than Green yeah. Klay is too talented a player as well as Steph, the others in Igoudala, Barnes, Livingston, Barbosa all of these guys disappeared after the first two games. How can that be after the chemistry that was built all season long of playing together and getting other teams to play your way. They did push the tempo enough in games to get out in transition and make the Cavaliers chase them as they had made teams do all season long. This was not the team that everyone watched all season. I will not bail them out either this is their job to play at a high level for an entire season not just for the regular season. What a miserable end to a season that saw you guys make history.

Cleveland congratulations at making history LeBron made everyone believe that they had the magic ticket and they did against the behemoth machine that had been destroying every team that stepped in front of them all season long including themselves. The Warriors had a system but they bought into the Cavaliers system trying to play as they do but without the length. The Cavaliers capitalized on every mistake the Warriors made as they should have. I have to say as many others are probably saying this morning that I actually thought the Warriors were going to win the series. I really did but the Cavaliers proved they wanted it more than the Warriors did. LeBron and the Cavaliers knew all too well what the sting of losing felt like and they wanted no part of that again, like he said “This is finals whatever I have to do and however it has to be done, I don’t care” We won. You can’t say it better than that. Celebrate Cavaliers everyone will be chasing you next year. Every game in your arena will be like a playoff game it will feel great enjoy it guys.

Till next post, this has been,


Warriors Green Suspended

This is what is on my mind about the NBA Finals. KiKi Vandeweghe a player from an earlier playing era, has levied a punishment on a player for reacting to something that no player in any league even himself would have allowed to happen to themselves. The rules are the rules I get that; we must also look at the aggravated behavior of what caused the action as well.

LeBron James, Scottie Pippen and others have executed this move and had nothing happen to them throughout the history of the game. OK, so Draymond and LeBron are tangled center court, I am not sure if there was a pain-point in either of their shoulders during this all I know is Draymond went down. Now with this fall comes something so disrespectful to another player. LeBron steps over Draymond. When this is taking place Draymond acts accordingly. In the aftermath once all is said and done the criticism begins and not on the one who steps over the other person while mind you he is actually getting up from the floor itself. Patrick Ewing was still down. This guy was up on one knee about to stand. How is this OK?

LeBron says after everyone has seen what he did that he wasn’t trying to disrespect Draymond he was just trying to get back into the game. Yeah right, he knew what stepping over this guy would do totally. Kiki you did not do what correct for the play and you and everybody else know it. You made a company decision, that should have ended that night right after the play ended as it did that night. To me I don’t think the Warriors will fracture behind this but this is why it was done for TV ratings the more people watch the more money the NBA makes. I still think the Warriors win tonight. For the simple reason that they play basketball as a team. Not too much one-on-one play where one guy holds the ball for most of the shot clock and then passes out to an unsuspecting player on the same team and is expected to make or create a great shot. They move the ball around which causes Mitch-matches on the floor because of the chaos that the ball movement creates.

Cleveland fans I am sorry for your loss, my condolences. Just wanted to get that out of the way before tonight.

Till next post, this has been,

Warriors vs. Cavs

Warriors vs. Cavs – Game 1

First I fell asleep on the game but awoke to find that the Warriors won without the outstanding play of their two stars. The bench mob as they like to be described came in and did their jobs. Lebron was and always will be Lebron but Kyrie and Kevin have to find their places in the game on the defensive end to make this a good series.

The Cavs played great against eastern conference talent that couldn’t really match them. Now though they are on the NBA Finals stage where to win it all you have to beat the best in the west as well. Well the Cavalier’s haven’t played well in the west all year-long. The games they won were nail biters, sure those are the games that bring team chemistry upfront in the locker room, but there has to be a total buy in from all involved. The Cav’s as long as they were tearing up the eastern conference looked like the eastern version of the Warriors. Now facing them the actual Warriors they have backslid to their old ways partially. I would love to see the Larry O’Brien trophy on the east coast again; however the Warriors aren’t going to just give it to them.

Stephen and Klay are two of the best in the NBA, with a bench that is down right awesome when at home. Stephen is from my area and I like the kid. He has moved to the west coast and become quite the player for the western side of the NBA. I like how the teams play in the final series of the playoffs. It would be great if that same play was exhibited throughout the entire season. I know it is a lot for them to do. Especially with the rule changes.

I think this will be a great series though. May the best team win.

Stephen Curry the man

As a basketball player he has a bit of magic with him. In this era that is being played today he is the embodiment of what the NBA has become. The last couple of holdouts have left or are leaving “Kobe Bryant” and “Tim Duncan” even Kevin Garnett. All things are about change even the NBA. If the game was still being played like it had been in previous seasons a lot of the guys that are headliners now wouldn’t be.

Curry however is a part of this era, his work ethic is great and he is being rewarded for it. I am sure his dad is very proud of what he has been able to accomplish but also as the rest of the basketball is doing thinks about how much the league has changed. Has the changes been for the better and not just because his own sons are slight of frame and able to benefit from the changes in the rules. Being a dad we can have rose-colored glasses when it comes to our kids. Having held a position in the same work place but at a different era we all know he reflects. The league just as everything does changes. Stephen though has transcended a lot of the boundaries that many never thought he would. His believe in himself and his creator is what I think gives him an edge. He met his wife in a Christian camp his second coach was a Christian minister from New York. Faith is all around him and what he does.

The NBA is not a workplace where not believing in yourself is going to be beneficial to you. I mean if you do have the utmost confidence in your own personal capabilities, you will still need a lot more to be a dominant force in the NBA. It is what you do with the dominance that allows you to be special. Curry could be arrogant, glory hogging, and self-proclaimed basketball god. He does not carry himself that way nor was he raised to be that man either. To be a smaller player and be considered a dominant player is where you know he has a little magic and a lot faith. I like comparing him to Allen Iverson. No they are nothing alike physically but their determination and drive and their belief in the creator are almost picture perfect. To be a smaller guy in the NBA you have to be special and give the glory to the father above and that is what both of them did and are doing. Curry has taken the league by storm and showing what having faith in Christ will do for you. He has to believe in his self we all do; but when we see the things that we are able to do and we know we didn’t do alone and honoring the one who has held your hand through all of it is the best reward any of us can hope to see as an example. There have been a lot of bigger and stronger players but not many that have humbled themselves or the humility of Stephen Curry. He doesn’t care about the accolades he cares about playing the game the right way.

I as a fan only hope that he continues the same practices throughout the rest of his life to be that light that Christ has asked us to be; to bring the most guarded heart to Christianity. He is using his blessings to show the power of Christ.