CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- Kevin Durant found out part of his past came crumbling down.
Hordes of reporters and cameras awaited Durant, Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors’ other superstars outside the visiting locker room following Thursday’s 126-118 over the pesky Washington Wizards. They had questions, about the team’s ninth consecutive win and Durant becoming a 10-time All-Star hours earlier.
Friends and family attended the Suitland native’s lone regular-season appearance in his hometown.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco’s congressional representative and a rather important person on planet earth, stood by with her entourage to greet some of her most famous constituents.
They would wait. Durant, one of three Warriors with local connections, needed details on the place where he first garnered national attention.
Wearing a black t-shirt from soul singer Tina Turner’s 1993 “What’s Love” tour, the 6-foot-11 scoring machine stood inside a near-empty locker room. Media members were told Golden State’s main players would speak in front of a team-logoed backdrop in the hall. Having jostled for prime position, none budged, leaving ample space for Durant to chat peacefully.
One of the locker room attendants filled KD in on his alma mater. Montrose Christian, once a national prep basketball power in this century's first decade, no longer existed.
Durant knew the school closed. His eyes grew wide when he learned the latest. The tiny non-descript campus steps from bustling Rockville Pike, which once served as proving grounds for future NBA players including Durant, Greivis Vasquez, and Terrance Ross, was mere rubble.
Irony popped with this tear-down revelation. His trip home included the official opening of a new building, The Durant Center, an educational center in his native Prince George’s County.
The high school wreckage disclosure also came after Golden State finally broke down the Wizards for its ninth consecutive win, the longest streak in the NBA this season.
“It feels good. Every win in the NBA is tough, it’s hard to win in the NBA, so we’re not going to take it for granted,” Durant said after scoring 21 points. “But we are striving for perfection every night, and I think tonight was a step in the right direction. We have played in spurts, but we can do better.”
Few players in the league perform at a higher level than the two-time Finals MVP. Fate landed him in Washington when the NBA announced he and Curry were selected starters for the 2019 All-Star game in Charlotte next month.
“I appreciate all the votes and people that recognize my game and the rest of the All-Stars. It’s a joy that we share the court with players you respect and admire, and compete against every night,” Durant said.
Like Durant, Warriors guard Quinn Cook grew up in PG County. This game means plenty to a kid who grew up rooting for the Wizards.
Cook's happy return home suffered a horrific twist before the reunion started.
Cook took advantage of every opportunity in his youth to attend Wizards home games. He was one of those kids clamoring for player autographs. Alongside DeMatha teammate and current Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo, Cook honed his game hoping to reach the show. Now he’s the one the next generation seeks out with pen and paper.
Undrafted after a standout four-year career at Duke, Cook bounced around looking for a professional home before latching on with Golden State for the 2017-18 season, the same year Durant arrived. Though he did not play Thursday, the 6-foot-2 guard has turned into a helpful piece off the bench for a Golden State team looking to win a third title in three years.
“Puts things into perspective of how far you came on your journey,” Cook said pre-game of his return home. “You see all the people that helped you get to where you are. It’s humbling. Gives you a little more motivation when you leave because you know what you’re doing it for.”
This visit came with fresh pain.
Around the same time Cook attended the opening of The Durant Center Wednesday night, Oladipo suffered a brutal season-ending knee injury.
“I was messed up,” Cook said upon learning of Oladipo’s fate. “My girl told me about, and I saw it. I talked to [Victor] last night. He’s in good spirits. That’s part of the game. You never want to see somebody go down like that. If anybody could come back from that, he could.”
Former Georgetown standout Marcus Derrickson rounded out Golden State’s local contingent. The power forward on a two-way contract chatted with reporters before the game about his rookie season and the current happenings with the Hoyas.
Such reunions provide nostalgia, perspective, and news. Durant, Cook, and Derrickson received healthy doses of each on Golden State’s dime.
Durant put up plenty of his money -- $10 million – toward helping students with needed academic, financial, and social-emotional resources to achieve their college and career goals.
“It feels good doing something that impacts where you came from,” Durant said. “I’m sure everybody probably feels the same way about their community.”
Communities change, buildings rise and fall. Durant experienced both in one trip back home along with another team win. The game, No. 48 on the season, was worth the wait.
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