Kevin Durant has awoken. Ever since he left Oklahoma City, he has become something of an enigma compared to what many thought of him prior.  We see him play a game and he is judged for his proficiency between those lines. He has peaked upwards from his rookie year through winning an NBA championship last season.  

However, his internal progression may eventually lead to a Durant that even he had not foreseen prior.  

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During a recent interview with the Mercury News, KD was candid about his newfound personal growth and awakening. Beyond the fake Twitter accounts and on-court fracases with former teammates, the contemporary times have shaped him into what he is becoming. 

During the interview with Logan Morgan, Durant speaks about the absurdity of the hate that was projected at him based on his decision to leave OKC, the deeper meaning behind his tattoos of Tupac Shakur and Rick James, how a community summit organized by Carmelo Anthony and QB Colin Kaepernick’s protest had inspired him, and how it was all ignited by the Bay area itself.

Are his musings the harbinger of athletes being agents of change, rather than stereotypically lavish and callous, or maybe even something beyond that?  

When asked where his change of identity came from, Durant said, "Finally waking up, to be honest. Just kind of seeing how rough it is for an average black man, you know what I’m saying? And on top of that, a black man makes one mistake…I see how far we get pushed down. For me, I kind of grew up in this basketball world, whereas my talent kind of overrides what I look like."

"I didn’t have it as rough when it comes to that, as far as social or systematic oppression or any social issues," he continued. "They didn’t really apply to me because I could put a ball in a basket. Just me saying that kind of woke me up a little bit, like 'Damn, that’s all I’m good for?' Like, if I wasn’t a basketball player, what kind of man would they look at me as, you know what I’m saying? In terms of what value can I bring to you outside of playing basketball. I bring a lot of value to people as far as how I treat them, how I encourage them, how I just try to be a good person to them. I feel there’s like a lot of black men that have those traits, but they often just get stereotyped or judged off of one incident or not given a second chance. So if I find something that’s empowering to people that look like me, I just try to send a subtle message that I got your back and I hear you and I try to inspire you as much as I can from just being in this world as a black man coming up, even though I was looked at and viewed a little differently for it. But I’m still a black man. I understand where you’re coming from."

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When asked about growing up in Washington, D.C. at the height of the city's crack epidemic, KD said, "Man, as a basketball player, it’s a thing in my neighborhood. Like, East Coast, if you’re a basketball player, people know you as that, they know you’re focusing on basketball. Nobody really tried to get me to be in the street life because I was either always walking to the gym or I was always in the gym. I had friends that got into bad sh-t, as far as drugs, as far as hanging around the wrong crowds, as far as just trying to make money some way, because we’re stuck. It’s not necessarily a fact that we’re so in love with the bad sh-t, or the stuff that’s illegal, it’s just like, our people are taught to survive. So if you put us in a neighborhood, no resources, no help, nobody to just be there for us … what else can we do but make us some easy sh-t to make us some money? My mom grew up on that, my brother grew up on that…"

When you're a basketball phenom like Durant, you get insulated from the world in a variety of ways. However, with his newfound insight, he is proving that it's never too late wake up. Shortly after arriving in the Bay Area, Colin Kaepernick began his protest of police brutality and societal inequities during the playing of the national anthem prior to his NFL games.

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When asked about how that affected him, Durant said, "It definitely put me in a different place because we just started talking about stuff that’s always been going on. You tend to just focus on what you know, or focus on what you do every day, and sometimes you can be so far removed from where you grew up or from home that you don’t realize what’s going on back there. That’s not because you’re not woke, or you’re not involved. You want to sit that aside because you see a better life and you want to focus on that, but you also have to realize that you left home for a reason. So you kind of bring something back so you can help elevate where you come from."

Durant has taken advantage of opportunities to not only show up for standard appearances, but to engage and speak with young people about their experiences and realities. He recently participated in a youth summit that had a tangible effect on him

"They have so many experiences that as a kid I probably went through half of what they went through," he said. "It’s just like, now, especially with social media and so much access to everything, you’re seeing what’s going on in your neighborhoods now, whereas I could avoid all of that when I was a kid, I didn’t have to worry about all that, I didn’t have to see it every day, scroll it on my phone, see somebody get shot by police, or somebody getting brutally murdered. I didn’t have to see that sh-t if I didn’t want to. They living a rougher life but, throughout that summit, it was more like, 'Let’s come to a solution. How can we make this police-citizen relationship better?'”

Regarding the proximity of Kaepernick's growing protest movement and how that inspired and affected him, Durant said, "I just love how he just did it. It was really out of nowhere. For the casual person, casual fan … I’m sure people that he was close to kind of seen it coming but for us, it was just like, “Whoa.” He shocked everybody by doing that. The backlash he got from it immediately…"

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"You just see he touched something in people that we didn’t know was there," KD continued. "I posted a picture of him on my Instagram, and the comments under that were ridiculous. The stuff that people were saying about him over that was ridiculous. He brought something out of people that they’d been hiding for a long, long time that needed to be revealed. I’d rather you tell me that you don’t like me because of my skin than hide that sh-t. So he kind of touched a nerve and the outrage from it made me a fan of him just because he decided to take all that on, but also tell a message of, 'Yo man. Just treat us fair, treat us equal, we’re people too. We’re not less than you because we don’t look like you.'"