The dark-blue Audi rolled up to Kevin Durant's suburban Oklahoma City home just before 11 p.m. on June 30. There was no fleet of SUVs trailing it, no rap mogul riding shotgun. Just Thunder general manager Sam Presti and assistant G.M. Troy Weaver, who were there to formally present a contract extension to their franchise player. Durant's entourage was composed of his mother, Wanda, and father, Wayne, along with his agents, Aaron and Eric Goodwin. The meeting lasted 30 minutes, and at the end both sides were comfortable that they had a deal. "There was really no thought into this decision," said Durant, who formally signed a five-year, $86 million extension on July 7. "It was easy for me."
Call him the anti-LeBron. Durant posted his (lower-case) decision on Twitter. He insisted the deal not have an opt-out clause, so as not to create any will-he-or-won't-he distractions. Durant didn't give the Thunder a discount—he got every nickel allowable under the current collective bargaining agreement. And with a new CBA likely to lower the value of max contracts, Durant guaranteed himself more cash than had he waited until becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2012. But had he tested the waters in two years, the affable 2009--10 scoring champ could have moved to a city where he could have recouped a large chunk of that money in off-court income. "He would have been every bit as desirable as LeBron, maybe more," says an Eastern Conference executive. "If he didn't sign, teams would start clearing cap space now for the summer of 2012."
Presti could have tried to save his small-market outfit a little money by waiting for the new CBA to kick in before offering Durant an extension. But ever since the franchise (then in Seattle) made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2007, Durant has awed the team with his attitude and work in the community. Teamwork, says Presti, "is in his DNA." Indeed, while the details on his contract were being ironed out, Durant was in Orlando, participating in 6:45 a.m. practices with Oklahoma City's summer league team. "Kevin instinctively understands that part of leading others is being a part of them," says Presti. Durant, in turn, felt a sense of loyalty to a team that traded All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and handed the franchise over to him three years ago when he was a skinny, unproven 18-year old.
His future secure, Durant can focus on rounding out his game. The Thunder coaches would like to see him be more patient coming off screens and also to operate more at the top of the circle, where they envision the 6'9" Durant terrorizing defenses à la Dirk Nowitzki. Every G.M. would salivate over that type of weapon. But they'll all have to wait until the summer of 2016 for a shot at acquiring it.