Be a ‘real MVP’

May 11, 2014 

On Tuesday, an extraordinary man and basketball player, Kevin Durant, gave his mother the best Mother’s Day gift imaginable. Durant can afford to give his mother anything she desires; after all, his contract with the Oklahoma Thunder will pay him $59.1 million over the next three years. But no, he gave her something money cannot buy -- and it’s something we all have the power to give.

Durant may have given the most thoughtful MVP acceptance speech I’ve ever witnessed -- far unlike the cocky attitude we see in so many young, rich athletes. He spent his time, almost 27 minutes, thanking others (watch it here: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/05/kevin-durant-mvp-speech-mom).

First, he individually thanked his teammates. He told them how much they meant to him and how they shared in the MVP honor. Through tears, he told personal stories about each one with plenty of “I love you mans” thrown in. He thanked his coaches, trainers and staff for always believing that “I can be the guy.” In basketball terms that means the world. When the clock is running down, Durant is the one they are looking for to take the last shot. He repeated that theme often, and gave his teammates and coaches credit for believing in him when he “didn’t believe in himself.”

He talked about how they pushed him to get better. “When you’ve got people behind you, you can do whatever,” he said.

He thanked the fans for allowing the team to be themselves and how much he wanted to win a championship for the city. He thanked the owner, Clayton Bennett, who is as far away from the Donald Sterlings of the league as the Earth is from Pluto.

But then he started to talk about family and friends; when he called out his homeboys who help keep him sane and away from the “It’s all about me” trap, tears started to flow down my cheeks, too. He talked about his grandmother, who couldn’t attend but was watching on TV. He thanked her for picking him up after school and making him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Then he went to his brothers, one older and one younger. He talked about how he looked up to his brother three years his senior and how he wanted to be an example for his younger brother. He thanked his father for always being supportive, even though from afar, and for sending him Bible verses every day and telling him that he loved him.

But then, with tears streaming down his 6-foot-9-inch frame, he talked about his mom, Wanda Pratt. Looking directly at her, he said, “I don’t think you know what you did. The odds were stacked against us. A single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old.” He recalled moving from apartment to apartment, but one of his fondest memories was about when they moved into their first apartment -- empty with no furniture -- and they sat in the living room and just hugged each other because, “We thought we made it.”

He talked about how his mom woke him up in the middle of the night during summers, making him “run up the hill; making me do push-ups. Screaming at me at my games when I was 8 or 9 years old.”

“You made us believe,” he continued. “You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs and food on the table.” And this is where I just boo-hooed. “When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate.” Then in a questioning tone, he said, “You sacrificed for us? You’re the Real MVP.”

That did it. I guarantee, that if tears aren’t falling down your face when you see and hear this, you’re not human.

We have to realize as parents that we must be the Real MVP in our children’s lives. Yes, it takes sacrifice and faith in God. If Wanda Pratt, born in 1970, could raise three God-fearing sons to be men in Prince George’s County, Maryland, we can do it, too.

Durant wasn’t raised to be a basketball player. He was raised to be a man. He knows the difference and so should we. He gave his mother the greatest gift of all: gratitude and love.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at crichardson@macon.com.

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