It can be hard to remember all the great moments of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season when sports announcers and writers have been more focused this week on the Thunder’s “collapse” after losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference. Although many fans faced disappointment after Games 4 and 5 (especially those of us in Oklahoma), the Thunder’s hard fought third season should not go overlooked. At the forefront of the adolescent Thunder team is Kevin Durant, who sums up the season nicely in a tweet he released last night: “It’s been a fun ride for us. We had 15 guys on this team and a whole city behind us. Everybody was great. We’ll keep working hard.”
Durant’s achievements make him nothing short of a superstar. In his short NBA career since his college stint as a Texas Longhorn, Durant has won such awards as NBA Rookie of the Year, 2-time NBA All-Star, and the youngest scoring leader in NBA history at 21 years of age, among many others. He is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the league, yet also one of the most humble, genuine, and respectful. As I’ve started paying more attention to Durant’s performance on the court these past few years, what I’ve found most impressive is how he leads his team off the court — by example.
In an article written by Daniel Locke on Durant’s leadership style, Locke states, “The best thing to occur during the ‘Summer of LeBron’ for the Thunder was Kevin Durant signing a five-year contract extension worth about $86 million.” His signing not only ensured that we can watch Durant carry the Thunder for several seasons to come, it also served as a great example of Durant’s character. There were no major press releases, countdowns, or TV specials; just a simple tweet to share his gratitude: @KDthunderup: “Extension for 5 more years wit the #thunder….God Is Great, me and my family came a long way…I love yall man for real, this a blessing!” Durant could’ve taken the route of LeBron and milked it for all it was worth, but that’s not his style. He’s been unafraid to remain true to himself, his upbringing and his values, all qualities that make him an admirable basketball player, individual, and leader.
After the devastating loss to the Mavs this past Monday night, Durant took full responsibility as the team leader. He stated he felt upset for letting his team and city down. We don’t often see this level of ownership from high-level sports figures, not to mention from leaders. Many leaders are not introspective; it’s easier to point a finger and make excuses for the team’s failure, but not for Kevin Durant. He remains committed to his team, the city for which he plays, and most importantly, to himself. His leadership should serve as a strong example for the leaders of the world, whether they lead on the basketball court, on the field, or in the boardroom. His leadership style is one of commitment and respect, while pushing himself and his teammates to perform to the best of their abilities.
By Hogan standards, Durant has proven himself a successful leader—you simply have to take a look at the success of the team he leads. Team success can be measured in a number of ways, and it’s safe to say that the Thunder have seen success, even without winning a NBA title… yet.