Kevin Durant is among the most recognizable names in all of sports and tomorrow’s NBA Draft will mark 10 years since former NBA commissioner David Stern announced, “With the 2nd pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Seattle Supersonics select Kevin Durant from The University of Texas.”
An entire decade has come and gone, yet the NBA champion, Finals MVP, 2014 league MVP and eight-time all-star remains a profound presence around the Texas Longhorns basketball program.
Although Durant had been long gone by the time Shaka Smart replaced Rick Barnes following the 2014-15 season, the ‘Horns head coach is well aware of Durant’s impact on Texas basketball, as he noted on Wednesday as a guess on NBC Sports’ The Newy Scruggs Show.
“I think just the affiliation with Kevin and the fondness that he has for the university and the basketball program is really influential for us,” Smart said.
“He comes back every year, he has a camp that he does over the summer. We always have our alumni event in September he’s here for that. So just having him around and the pride that he has, what he did when he was here and the current team connection that he has with current guys is definitely a big plus.”
Along with the aforementioned annual basketball camp, becoming a mainstay at Texas football games, remaining a presence around the basketball program and gifting packages of his signature Nike merchandise, Durant simply being a Texas alum has benefited the Longhorns greatly.
Myles Turner, another former one-and-done standout, credited his admiration for Durant as a big reason he ultimately stayed home to play for Texas.
More recently, in what became the signature addition of Smart’s tenure in Austin, Mohamed Bamba’s Player’s Tribune announcement mentioned Durant, saying, “my idol Kevin Durant’s deep involvement with the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation at the school,” went into the Pebbles and Sand portion of his decision process.
Just by simply being a former Longhorn, Durant played a role in some form or fashion in a pair of elite five-star prospects becoming Longhorns and Turner and Bamba likely won’t be the last.
Regardless of how far his NBA career takes him, Durant always seems to find a way back to his second home — Austin. Fortunately for Smart and the ‘Horns, Durant’s presence and name alone have done nothing but benefit the program and will likely continue to do so going forward.