EDMOND, Okla. – Wanda Pratt received an early Mother's Day present on Tuesday that was better than any flowers, candy or cards she will receive on Sunday.
The NBA awarded Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant with this season's Most Valuable Player award. In a lengthy, tearful and poignant ceremony, Durant thanked his family members, every single teammate from Russell Westbrook to little-known Grant Jerrett, the entire Thunder coaching staff and organization, Oklahoma City and The Oklahoman newspaper for calling him "Mr. Unreliable."
It was a heartfelt moment for Durant, none more so than when he referenced Pratt, his mother.
"We weren't supposed to be here," Durant said. "You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn't eat, you made sure we ate and [you] went to sleep hungry.
"You sacrificed for us. You're the real MVP."
Pratt said the magnitude of her son being named MVP had not really hit her prior to the ceremony. But after her son thanked her, members of Durant's family, the Thunder, season-ticket holders and VIPs in attendance gave both Durant and his mother a standing ovation. Hundreds of fans watching outside cheered, too.
Pratt immediately broke down in tears.
"I'm just kind of emotional about this day because he just worked so hard," Pratt told Yahoo Sports. "He started working at this early, when he was 9 years old. To see it all come together for him, I'm just excited for him.
"It really goes back to what Kevin puts in. I'm sure there are so many guys in the league that work extremely hard every day. But I know how hard he works, I know his heart, I know what he gave early on in the early days, and how many sacrifices he made through the years to even prepare for this moment."
The MVP award was Durant's first in his seventh NBA season. It was also the first for a franchise that began as the Seattle SuperSonics during the 1967-68 season before moving to Oklahoma City in 2008. Durant captured 119 of 125 first-place votes and 1,232 total points. Miami Heat forward LeBron James, a four-time NBA MVP, received the other six first-place votes.
"Everything in my life, I had to go take it," Durant said. "Nothing was given to me."
Said Pratt: "I'm grateful for all the voters that voted his way, but I'm going to have to talk to the other six, though."
Durant battled with James for the MVP award all season. James said a day earlier that Durant deserved to win, ending his own pursuit of a third straight and fifth overall MVP.
James "definitely drives me and pushes me to reach [a higher] level as a player," Durant said. "It's a healthy competition."
Durant won the NBA's scoring title for the fourth time in five seasons averaging 32 points, along with a career-high 5.5 assists. He became the first NBA player to win the scoring title and the MVP in the same season since Allen Iverson in 2001. Durant led the Thunder to the NBA's second-best record at 59-23, despite OKC missing starting point guard Russell Westbrook for 36 games because of injuries.
Durant told his teammates it "meant the world to me" they all attended the ceremony. And when he talked about his teammates, Durant made a point to save Westbrook for last during the ceremony that lasted an hour.
"You got a big piece of this," Durant told Westbrook. "You're an MVP-caliber player. It's a blessing to play with you."
The Thunder aired a video montage that included everyone from players to fans to those affected by the tornadoes in Oklahoma praising Durant for his work on the court and in the community.
"This is the perfect place for me," Durant said of Oklahoma City.
Durant's humbleness has endeared him to teammates and staff alike.
"He just won the highest individual the National Basketball Association can offer, but the first thing he mentioned is this is our trophy," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "That's who he is, and that's the person we've all grown to love."