SEATTLE (AP) — Kevin Durant hoisted 62 shots and scored 63 points, and played all but 15 seconds in 51 minutes of game time.
All that, and he still had time to pose for pictures and sign autographs when his car was surrounded by fans as he tried to leave.
If there was any questioning if Seattle still loves Durant, it was put to rest Sunday.
“I just want to say I miss you guys,” Durant told a crammed small-college gym filled with about 3,000 fans, many in Durant’s old Seattle SuperSonics jersey. “Thank you for the warm welcome. I can’t wait to come back.”
Durant took part in the Jamal Crawford Summer Pro-Am in Seattle on Sunday. It was his first time back in Seattle in a basketball capacity since the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in Seattle in the 2007-08 season and continues to have an affinity for his first professional city.
Durant tried to slip away from the gym quietly, but fans found his SUV and surrounded it nearly an hour after the game ended. Instead of forcing his way through, Durant stopped, signed autographs and posed for pictures from the backseat of his vehicle.
Shortly after his game ended, Durant tweeted, “I love and miss Seattle.”
The league organized by Crawford has seen its share of special guest appearances in the past and there are even rumors of a Blake Griffin appearance in the coming weeks. But nothing might top Durant, considering the circumstances of how he left and how Seattle remains important to him. Durant has been seen before in hats representing Seattle, including a retro SuperSonics hat during this year’s NBA playoffs.
Durant reached out to Crawford to try and figure out a way to make an appearance. A summer of waiting finally came to fruition Sunday as 3,000 fans packed a small-college gym to see Durant, Crawford and other NBA players put on a show.
“He reached out to me to come perform before in front of you guys,” Crawford told the crowd at Seattle Pacific University. “He loves Seattle. He took his own jet. He spent a lot of money to come up here and perform in front of you guys.”
It clearly wasn’t one of Durant’s better shooting performances. He made just 26 of 62 shots — including many dunks — but was only 8 of 32 from 3-point range. He missed a baseline jumper at the end of regulation that forced overtime where Crawford’s team pulled out a 147-141 win. Crawford finished with 46 points.
But the final score or Durant’s stat line didn’t matter in the bigger picture of a city still trying to reclaim its NBA identity. Fans were
“It’s huge. Seattle feels like he was stolen from us. He’s arguably the second-best player in the NBA, some say he’s the first, so for us to get to see him up close and personal again; it was special for me to get to play with him,” said Will Conroy, a Seattle native who has bounced around in the D-League with a few NBA stints. “I overpassed it to him like 10 times, but I didn’t care. It was special. Even me, I couldn’t sleep last night. I was excited.”
Durant was mostly matched up against Martell Webster of the Washington Wizards but he took on whoever stood in his way, including Shaqquan Aaron, a high school standout in Seattle. Aaron played pretty good defense on Durant, but the NBA star still got the foul call from the officials.
“He was trying to go at me his hardest,” Aaron said. “If he was guarding me I would have went at him too.”