In long-awaited return to Seattle, Kevin Durant thrills fans
Durant played at the Jamal Crawford Summer Pro-Am at Seattle Pacific University on Sunday, his first game here since he left with the Sonics in 2008.
Seattle Times staff reporter
For one afternoon, Kevin Durant belonged to Seattle once again.
It was as if the lanky basketball superstar stepped into a time machine and transported back to the summer 2007 when the Sonics selected him No. 2 overall in the NBA draft.
There he was Sunday, in the city where his professional career began, and the 24-year-old looked just like he did when he played his last game in Seattle five years ago.
However, instead of his old green and gold No. 35 jersey, Durant wore a red No. 7. And instead of an NBA contest at KeyArena, he turned a summer-league game at the Jamal Crawford Pro-Am into a must-see event that drew manic fans to Seattle Pacific University.
The crowd overflowed out of Royal Brougham Pavilion and snaked around the corner onto Nickerson Street.
When Durant walked through a side door, the place went bonkers. And when he stepped on the court, the crowd of 3,000 greeted him with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said former Washington standout guard Will Conroy, who teamed with Durant during the game. “Only Kevin Durant could do something like this in Seattle. Seriously.
“People wouldn’t come out like this and show this type of love for LeBron or Kobe. Not here. This just shows what he meant and what he still means to this city.”
With cameras and smartphones held high, fans lined the floor snapping pictures as the announcer said, “Welcome home, Kevin Durant” over the loudspeakers.
For some fans, like 8-year-old Michael Overstreet, it was the first chance to watch the former Sonics rookie play in person.
And for others, it was a long stroll down memory lane and a bittersweet reminder of what Seattle lost when Clay Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City.
“I remember going to games seeing him play, and he inspired me because of the way he handled himself,” said 20-year-old Jeff Perkins, the former Garfield High basketball standout. “Seeing him come back shows he really loves this city and the fans.”
Years ago, Durant approached Jamal Crawford about playing in his tournament. Durant was scheduled to play in a charity game at Alaska Airlines Arena in 2011 during the NBA lockout, but the game was canceled.
Last year Durant helped Team USA to a gold medal in the London Olympics and was unavailable.
Tournament organizers at the Pro-Am always considered Durant the one player who would bring the tourney unprecedented attention.
“There he is,” a smiling Crawford said, pointing at Durant. “We did it.”
And Durant, a four-time All-Star and a three-time NBA scoring champion, put on a show. Wearing custom lime green KD5 sneakers, he played all but 15 seconds of a 53-minute game.
Durant took 62 shots — making 26 — and scored 63 points.
He drained three-pointers and flushed dunks. Conroy (33 points) set him up for a thrilling alley-oop slam.
Durant could have penned a storybook ending, but he missed a potential game-winning midrange jumper in the final seconds. In the extra period, the team led by Crawford (46 points), Washington Wizards guard Martell Webster (25) and former UW standout Tre Simmons (26) pulled away for a 147-141 victory.
However, the real winners were the fans.
“I’ve had a fun time here in Seattle,” Durant told the crowd while holding the microphone at midcourt. “I miss you guys. Thank you for the warm welcome, man. I can’t wait to come back. Thank you. I appreciate it.”
After the game, he sat in the back seat of a Cadillac Escalade parked outside the arena, posing for pictures and signing autographs from hundreds of fans — mostly kids — who surrounded his car.
“To see him back in Seattle playing and fighting for our Sonics is pretty special,” said 20-year-old Brandon Lee of Everett. “We want basketball back in Seattle and to see the original guy back here was pretty awesome.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.