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Why Kevin “KD” Durant Calls His Mom Wanda “The Real MVP” of the Family

As the NBA Champ goes for a fourth Olympic Gold medal this summer, we take a look at the "The Real MVP" of the family.

By Grace Jidoun

Kevin “KD” Durant rose to the forefront of professional basketball when he won the NBA’s 2013-2014 Most Valuable Player title while just in his early 20s. He hasn’t slowed down since, racking up award after award as an 11-time All-Star and a two-time NBA champion. Already the owner of three Olympic Gold medals, fans will soon be treated again to KD’s mesmerizing skills on the Olympic court as he joins the 2024 USA Basketball Men’s National Team in Paris this summer.

What drives an athlete to such soaring heights of success? KD credits his mom, Wanda (lovingly known as “Mama Durant”), as his number one source of inspiration.

"When you didn't eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You're the real MVP," he said through tears in his 2014 MVP acceptance speech.

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Why Kevin Durant Calls His Mother Wanda the “Real MVP”

Kevin Durant and his mother Wanda Durant attend Apple TV+ "Swagger" New York premiere at Brooklyn Academy of Music

By the time she was 21, Wanda Durant was a single mother of two boys, Kevin, a.k.a. KD and Tony, now a businessman and basketball coach. In his touching MVP acceptance speech, KD described how his mom persevered in the face of incredible obstacles and always pushed him to practice as a youth growing up in Maryland, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.

As Wanda sat in the front row of the awards ceremony, tears welled up in her eyes when Durant addressed her from the podium.

“I don’t think you know what you did… The odds were stacked against us,” he said. "Everybody told us we weren't supposed to be here. We moved from apartment to apartment by ourselves. One of the best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture, and we just all sat in the living room and hugged each other because we thought we made it.”

He continued, "When something good happens to you, I don't know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here. You woke me up in the middle of the night in the summer times. Making me run up a hill. Making me do push-ups. Screaming at me from the sidelines at my games at eight or nine years old,” he said. “We weren't supposed to be here. You made us believe.”

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Wanda on Being a Single Mom

Wanda Durant attends the NBA All-Star Game as part of NBA All-Star Weekend on Sunday, February 18, 2024

Thanks to her career as a motivational speaker, Wanda’s journey as a single mom has inspired many. She is always willing to share thoughtful advice and words of encouragement, bravely recounting her own struggles so that others might benefit.

In a 2023 interview with TODAY's “3rd Hour Today,” Wanda opened up about how she raised the NBA star and sometimes went to bed hungry so the boys could eat.

“I had Tony at 18, and then I had Kevin when I was 21. I'm a single mom. There’s a period when you do what you have to do for your children,” she said, adding that making sure the boys ate was the “light” at the end of the tunnel and kept her going.

But Wanda admitted she was a disciplinarian and could be “tough,” saying, “My focus was I wanted my sons to have qualities that were not easily erased: hard work and determination.” But she conceded that it’s essential to not “sweat the small stuff. Just loosen up on some of those stringent rules. The important thing is the character that you’re building.”

Pouring everything she had into her sons has certainly paid off, but she advises moms everywhere to “take some time to focus on yourselves because they do grow up.” In an interview with iHeartRadio’s The Breakfast Club, she said, “I had to put [my passion] on the back burner for so many years; I was so focused on my sons. And then, the opportunity came for me to do inspirational speaking, and I felt it was important to tell my story, even the hard times and the down times. I want women to know, don’t quit on yourself.”

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The Durants’ Dedication to Charity

Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns looks on during the game on February 8, 2024

Now, Wanda has moved her dreams off the backburner and is modeling resilience, hard work, and kindness to a whole new generation through her non-profit Hope, Dream, Believe, and Achieve (HDBA). Embodying the mantra, “Where there is hope, there are possibilities,” she works to help underserved children, single mothers, and families overcome difficult circumstances and find strength through adversity. In addition to fundraising for The Boys & Girls Club of America and the Single Parents Support Network, she has been a keynote speaker at the Ford Foundation and The White House United States of Women's Summit, among others, and travels the county speaking at Fortune 500 companies and universities.

Giving has become a family tradition. Wanda also helps run the Durant Family Foundation, which creates college pathways for underrepresented youth – and has cast an international net with its “Build & Ball” program, funding basketball courts in underserved areas across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Its first project in Africa will be completed later this year. 

Astonishingly, Wanda navigated single motherhood while suffering from Graves Disease, an autoimmune condition that once sent her to the emergency room, she revealed to Essence Magazine. Of course, the busy mom added that to her list of charitable endeavors and now raises awareness for Graves and associated thyroid eye disease through a partnership with Horizon Therapeutics.

While KD is an unstoppable force on the court and is sure to wow fans at the Olympics, we also have to wonder: Is there anything Mama Durant can’t do?

To see how Team USA performs at the 2024 Olympics, tune in to Peacock and NBC beginning July 26.

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