On this date eight years ago, the world was given access to footage of one of the dopest nights in basketball history.
On August 1, 2011, Kevin Durant, the reigning two-time NBA scoring champ on the verge of his third straight scoring title, decided to come play pick-up hoops at the most famous outdoor court in the world, Harlem’s Rucker Park. What transpired was a 66-point outing that still excites any basketball fan to this day. The next day, footage of the epic outburst was released for the world to see and the legend of Durant grew tenfold.
In honor of the eighth anniversary of the KD Rucker Park mixtape, let’s look back at the eight most important factors behind what made this game so iconic.
8. The NBA lockout
The summer of 2011 wasn’t expected to be a great one for NBA fans as the league was in a lockout that would force a shortened 66-game season.
However, that summer eventually became the summer that NBA guys pulled up to as many pro-ams and open-runs as possible after Durant jump-started the trend with this performance.
This was back when all we really knew about KD was that he loved his mama and he loved to hoop. Oh, and his backpacks. But only one of those things was being affected by the lockout. So when he pulled up to Rucker Park, not only was it a show and a chance to enjoy an NBA player playing basketball, but it was also a reminder of the purity that can be found in the sport. The beauty of a 22-year-old who just loves to play basketball. It was something you had to root for if you are a fan of sports.
7. The pluck
KD wasn’t known as some defensive stalwart at this point. But he was an NBA player on a court with non-NBA guys, so he should have been best defender on the court just off principle. And that absurd wingspan.
He didn’t get the steal on this play, but it was something that showed he meant business and he was in Harlem to show no mercy. The swagger he shows as he looks at the ball handler chasing after the loose ball is more confirmation that he was getting into his bag and was bound for a magical night. And that pluck was also a precursor of things to come.
6. He was on the road team
Back in 2011, everybody liked rooting for Kevin Durant. This was way before the internet tried to tell people it was cool to call him a snake.
But when KD was the opposition to your team and became the antagonist in your eyes, well, that’s when he did some of his best work.
Representing the DC team in this game, KD was very much on the road, and despite being the most popular player on the court, he was also public enemy No. 1.
Think about it. It’s Harlem. He’s an outsider trying to win a game at Rucker Park. The crowd had to pull for the home team to start because what’s a cooler story than a bunch of New Yorkers holding their own against a soon-to-be NBA MVP at the Mecca of pick-up basketball?
Well, KD found a way to create a cooler narrative that involved the crowd falling in love with him and fawning over his every move by the end of the night.
5. This dunk where he falls
Whenever you see an elite athlete lose their balance while they are also getting super excited about their performance, you should get hype as well.
Unless you’re on the other team. In which case you should be scared.
When KD went down after that slam, it was a sign that he was about to go Super Saiyan Three and destroy his competition with a Spirit Bomb so big even the Dragon Balls couldn’t save them.
His energy level was way over 9,000, it’s just that his legs (and the tight and crowded court) weren’t entirely ready for what he was bringing to the table.
But after getting a slight chuckle at Durant ending up on his backside, this turns right back into a slaughter that was somehow still PG in rating. I would say people should have hid their kids from what was happening, but they played a big role in making this night so great.
Them, and all the pull-up threes he was cashing out on at the end.
4. The announcers
The same way Emcee Rell elevates the And1 Mixtape Tour, Jeffrey Banks aka Hannibal helped make KD’s night even more inspirational.
It’s one thing to show up at the court and dominate.
It’s another thing to have a packed crowd going wild with your every bucket.
But it’s a completely different level to turn the game’s emcee into your personal hype man to provide the perfect level of joy and astonishment as he yells in the mic after you score relentlessly.
By the fourth quarter it was entirely the Kevin Durant show, and the reaction after his 53rd points is the proof.
3. How he pulled up to the game
As KD explained to GQ a couple years back, he wasn’t supposed to be in New York that day. In fact, hours before the game, he was in Oklahoma just enjoying his offseason. Than DMV streetball legend White Chocolate hit up Durant to come join their run at Rucker Park, so he hopped on a plane and just pulled up. Like a G.
The trip out of New York was far less glamorous, though. Durant said in a documentary that came out a month later that he ended up taking a Megabus back home to D.C. with his buddies. Of course 2011 KD is so humble that he takes a cheap bus home after dominating at one of the most famous courts in the world.
2. The attitude
Remember back when Kevin Durant was not nice? Those were good times.
And it was an image and ad campaign that was cemented thanks to this day at the Rucker.
He was giving out so many mean mugs that you would have thought Kendrick Perkins personally coached him on the art of the angry face right before he took the court.
“Now listen here KD,” Perk said in my imagination. “You can’t show these boys no mercy out there. They got to see that in your eyes. Your lips. It’s no love out there and you need them to know that the second after the ball goes through the hoop each time. Matter of fact, might as well do it like me and just keep the scowl on the whole game. F--- that nice s---.”
1. Kids on the court
This is what basketball is all about. This is why people love the game. This type of crowd interaction.
It’s just beautiful.
It’s not a part-owner pushing a player for no damn reason other than to be a fool. It’s not a fan unnecessarily flipping the double bird just to further the narrative that people from his city are jerks. And it’s not yelling such vulgar things that a player on the opposing team has to re-think how he examines race relations among fans and players and reconsider just where he fits into that conversation. Naw. It’s not that deep in the slightest.
Word to Bron at Bronny’s AAU games, this is just unbridled joy over watching something dope happen on a basketball court. Everybody loves to watch amazing things happen in person, and nothing quite compares to when you see it on a street basketball court. Even when there’s rules, there’s no actually rules.
It’s why kids ran on the court to celebrate the visiting team.
And then when the crowd couldn’t rush the court after KD’s last bucket, he just flexed one time to let the world know that on that day he was the champ.
THAT’S A DISCOUNT DOUBLE-CHECK!!!!
And that is exactly what makes Kevin Durant so dope. When he’s in his bag, it’s just raw basketball joy coupled with raw basketball greatness and that makes for a special time.
Hopefully Durant gets back healthy so the people of New York can experience more moments like this in person very soon.