By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — The last time Kevin Durant played in front of his Oklahoma City Thunder fans was during the Western Conference Finals late last spring.
Despite losing to the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, he put on a show in every game.
Durant continued the show Sunday as he hosted the USFleet Tracking Basketball Invitational. With many of the biggest names in the NBA on the same court for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season, Durant was still the star of stars.
What made Durant stand out wasn’t just the 42 points, 26 rebounds and 11 assists he posted in leading the White Team to a 176-171 overtime win over the Blue Team at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Even for an all-star game type atmosphere, those are numbers you expect from the two-time NBA scoring champion.
What made Durant stand apart from the other 15 players was his willingness to put a game like this together here. He could have done it in New York, Dallas or Los Angeles and maybe made a bigger splash. But he chose to reward his fans.
“Once I put this game together I knew it was going to be a hit, especially because of the people in Oklahoma City who enjoy the game,” Durant said. “I am excited I had the opportunity to do it. It felt like it was a real game.”
Durant also donated $100,000 to the Single Parents Foundation.
The winning team consisted of Durant, LeBron James, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldrige. James had 40 points and tied with Durant for a game-high 53 minutes of action.
The Blue team had Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Chris Paul and Michael Beasley, who had a game high 56 points.
Paul was the only other player in the game with a triple-double as he posted 14 points and 13 rebounds to go with 25 assists. He also remembers the days when the Hornets were the first NBA team to call Oklahoma home.
“I talk to KD pretty often so he knows how I feel about Oklahoma City,” Paul said. “It’s always fun to come back here.”
Like most all-star games, there were plenty of dunks, behind the back passes and highlight-reel moves in the first three quarters. In the fourth, the players got serious and could even be seen playing a little defense.
Durant had a chance to win the game in regulation with a last second three-pointer. But a pesky Paul did his best to bother him and the shot fell short.
But in the extra period, Durant, James and Green took over and pulled away.
“You put guys like that on the court, you are going to do whatever it takes,” Green said. “It was fun at the beginning then it got serious at the end. It’s great to play these type of games, but we do want to get the season started.”
Durant was able to put on such a star-studded game as the NBA lockout headed to its 115th day. After a breakdown in talks last week, it doesn’t look like fans will have any real basketball to watch any time soon.
So while the players were trying to give the public a taste of what they are missing, they also were sending message that they want to be on the court and playing in real NBA games. But only if its fair.
“I don’t know if frustrated is the right word,” Paul said. “As you see in these games we’ve been playing, we love to play the game. We are going to find a way to play anyway possible. We want to just keep giving our fans an opportunity to see us. If not for the fans, we’re not who we are. We just want them to know we want to still keep working toward a deal. It’s not just about us, it’s about the fans. All the people that make our game happen.”
Durant, Paul, Green and Harden were the only players who stayed to talk to the media after the game. Most didn’t want to have to answer questions about the lockout and decided to just let their play on the court speak for them.
“A lot of people came out to show love,” Durant said. “All the players that came out didn’t have to. They sacrificed their time to come play the game. We just wanted to show the fans that we still love them and that we still want to play no matter what.”