Kevin Durant, Most Valuable Player of the NBA, recognized that receiving a trophy celebrating his individual brilliance gave the false impression that he had earned the accolade on his own.  He admitted this during an emotional acceptance speech at his MVP award ceremony.

When we see an outstanding performer, we’re awed and amazed by their extraordinary abilities. When we watch Kevin Durant, we wonder: how can someone so tall move so gracefully with the basketball? How can a 6’9”, 240-pound giant shoot with such soft touch and pinpoint accuracy?

Having witnessed his remarkable talent on display, we assume Durant’s greatness can be explained by a combination of God-given athleticism and years of dedicated practice. However, in his gracious MVP acceptance speech, Durant shined a spotlight on the many people who had contributed to his success. He profusely thanked them and acknowledged that they were the real reason he was winning the award. With his remarks, Durant reminded us that few leaders are successful unless a lot of people want them to be.

To be all you can be as a leader, you rely heavily on the help of others. Kevin Durant’s speech illustrated the many ways in which a leader needs others in order to make it to the top.

To persevere through difficulty…leaders need encouragement.

Kevin Durant appears supremely confident on the basketball court, but like anyone else, he experiences moments of self-doubt. In his speech, Durant thanked teammate Kendrick Perkins for sending encouraging late-night text messages following difficult defeats. He mentioned how much it meant when teammate Caron Butler placed an affirming note in his locker following a losing streak. He expressed gratitude for the constant encouragement given to him by the team’s general manager, Sam Presti, after every game, whether a win or loss.

To perform with excellence…leaders need inspiration.

Durant praised teammates and coaches for providing him with inspiring examples of how to lead well. For example, he noted the selflessness of the team’s head coach, Scott Brooks, who never takes the credit for the team’s victories even though he often deserves it. He expressed admiration for teammate Derek Fisher who, although at the end of an accomplished career, never stops learning. He also recognized the humble attitude displayed by point guard Reggie Jackson, who always places his teammates above himself.

To reach their potential…leaders need to be challenged.

In his speech, Durant talked about how his teammates have challenged him to take his game to another level. Specifically, he thanked teammate Serge Ibaka for being unafraid to question his decision-making and for motivating him to make better choices. He also credited Russell Westbrook’s work ethic for pushing him to be a more dedicated professional.

To have an opportunity to succeed…leaders need others to make sacrifices for them.

Lastly, Kevin Durant honored his mom. In his own words…

“I don’t think you know [how much] you did [for me]. 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 by the time you were 21 years old. Everyone told us we weren’t supposed to be here [but]…you made us believe. You kept us off the streets. You kept clothes on our backs and food on the table. When you didn’t eat; you made sure we ate and went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”

Thought to Ponder

Who are the people standing behind your successes? How might you honor their contribution to your life?

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