D COMPANY Kevin Durant — superstar, millionaire, angel investor and now ambassador to India
Kevin Durant’s making a trip to India this summer. And that means two things - the 6-foot-9 Warrior has become big enough to be recognised in far off India, and that the NBA wants India to recognise its next big global star (sort of like Kobe Bryant and China).
To announce this, he dutifully sat down to talk to the ‘Indian delegation’ present in New Orleans, hosting the All-Star Game this weekend, and those dialling in from back home. It’s “pretty rare” to get him in a room, an American colleague said on enquiry. (But Durant will definitely do hours of talking to strangers over the three days). Of course, it was relayed in advance that he did not want to talk about Russell Westbrook and his former team of eight seasons. Surely everyone can understand why, and there’s nothing ahead if that was all you wanted to read about. Moving on, he’s coming to meet the 24 players selected for the academy in India, and of course to go “go check out the Taj Mahal”.
The closest India have come to the NBA is the D-League, where Satnam Singh, Palpreet Singh play for affiliate teams. They could get closer said KD. “If you’re from the D-League you’re more familiar with the NBA game, more familiar with what these teams want from you. You learn the system... that’s the way to make it to the NBA.”
The parallel to Kobe Bryant’s frequent trips and popularity is easy to see. “He really liked going over there (China) and really enjoyed being part of the culture. I think that’s what people really liked about Kobe. He wanted to learn about different aspects of life and how people approach dif ferent different things. I feel the same way.” It’d be nice for India to learn how he approaches basketball. At times the super
star would de- AFP scend into a notepad - he did not bring it - in front of him while answering, or taking questions from the callers overseas. He, without conscious volition probably, was doodling plays and strategies while answering. I just might know his favourite play.
OH SO TECHY
India’s bond with Silicon Valley is very strong, but probably not as strong as Durant’s. According to Forbes, he made $62.5 million last year (including his salary for the 2016-17 season) and he’s investing at least some of it in technology startups. “It’s smart business and it’s kind of rare. One thing that has changed over the last year and a half is that I’ve formed my own company - the Durant company.” Moving to Golden State has been good for him in more than one way.
MARKET, MARKET, MARKET
This weekend’s about showcasing both talent and the Sony SIX, SIX/HD & SONY ESPN/HD
NBA as a brand. The city’s been taken over - it’s advertised on everything from highrises to every other wall and pillar in the famous French Quarter of New Orleans City. And everything is recorded and beamed out on some medium. The mid-season break that combines all of the league’s commercial interests with the fan’s fantasy moment, and the event has evolved from just the ‘All-Star Game’ way back in 1951 to an exhibition of a lot of league things. So many people descending on the city should have annoyed the citizens except they were prepared for the madness of Mardi Gras in any case (“That time of the year when us locals wish we could take off,” our driver said as he shuttled us to the hotel from the airport).
Club cricket’s still just taking off as an international event, and the IPL already provides us with 20 overs of mix-and-match teams. But it’ll be fun to see the best 22 cricketers in the world in a one-night-only contest, right?