May 6 (Reuters) - A humbled Kevin Durant heaped praise on his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates and called his mother the true MVP after winning the National Basketball Association’s top individual honor on Tuesday.
With his mother looking on proudly from the audience and backed on stage by his Thunder teammates, Durant received the Most Valuable Player award for the first time in his seven-year career after capturing his fourth scoring title in five seasons.
In a moving acceptance speech, the 25-year-old forward called his achievement a team award but left no doubt who was most responsible for his success.
”My mom,“ started Durant, unable to choke back his tears. ”I don’t think you know what you gave.
”You had my brother when you were 18-years-old. Three years later I came out.
”The odds were stacked against us, a single parent with two boys.
”We wasn’t supposed to be here. You made us believe, you kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us.
“You’re the real MVP,” added Durant as the crowd responded with a rousing standing ovation.
Durant received 119 first-place votes from a total of 124 votes cast by sportswriters and broadcasters in North America plus one special fan vote to bring Miami Heat forward LeBron James’s two-year reign as MVP to an end.
James, who won the MVP title four times in the last five seasons, finished a distant second with six first-place votes. Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers was third, Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls fourth and James Harden of the Houston Rockets rounded out the top five.
”Everything in my life I’ve had to go take it, nothing was ever given to me,“ said Durant. ”I had to take it, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
”This was another case, if I wanted to win MVP I had to go take it. I felt this was the year I did that.
“So many great players before me have won this award and just to be amongst the names ... it’s a tremendous honor and I am very grateful.”
In the best season of his career, the five-time All-Star averaged a career-best 32 points per game to go with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
His consistency was highlighted by a run of 41 games this season with at least 25 points, which was the longest streak since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan did it in 40 straight games during the 1986-87 season.
In capturing his fourth scoring title, he joined Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, George Gervin and Allen Iverson as the only players to win at least four scoring titles.
With All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook sidelined for large chunks of the regular season with a knee injury, Durant carried a bigger load but said claiming MVP honors after two years of finishing runner-up was never his goal.
”I never say I just want to go for the MVP, always want to set team goals, I want to be the best leader I can be. The best man,“ said Durant. ”This is the first year where I played basketball where I didn’t put basketball first.
“I put being a better man first and basketball got better.”
With the MVP award safely in his trophy case, Durant will quickly turn his attention back to winning a maiden NBA title.
His Thunder trail the Los Angeles Clippers 1-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final with Game Two scheduled for Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
Reporting Steve Keating in Toronto and Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue