What was wrong with Kevin Durant’s MVP Speech and why none of that matters (plus a Mother’s Day message)

On Tuesday, Kevin Durant, a forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was awarded the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player award. I am not going to pretend I know a lot about the NBA, I think I have watched about a total of about fifteen minutes of NBA basketball this season. I did play a couple of seasons in middle school (with a career total of three, yes three, points) but stopped to join the speech team in seventh grade (something I have regarded as one of the greatest decisions I have ever made).

But I was immediately interested in the buzz on Twitter around his acceptance speech.

From Minnesota Gophers basketball coach, Richard Pitino (@MNCoachPitino):
Pitino Durant Tweet

From Dassel-Cokato High School basketball coach Todd Goudy (@CoachTGoudy):
Goudy Durant Tweet

It is hard to admit, but I immediately found many faults with the speech:

  • His opening line was telling the audience how nervous he was
  • For pretty much the entire speech, he was clutching the lectern and was hunched over to speak into the microphone
  • The speech was littered with inside jokes that were inaccessible to most of the audience
  • After addressing his teammates he said he was “almost done” and to “give me a couple more minutes” and proceeded to speak for over 11 more minutes
  • After a good conclusion that referenced his introduction, he added the throwaway line “Thank you to all the writers for voting for me” and then literally “the end”

But despite these deficiencies, I am still in complete agreement with Coach Pitino and Coach Goudy, this was a very, very good speech.

Why was this a very good speech? Because he was authentic. During this speech, we saw a man who clearly loves the game of basketball, who clearly loves his teammates and in the most emotionally stirring part of his speech, who clearly loves his mother.

I am guilty of often focusing too much of the technical aspects of public speaking. In the end, the real goal of public speaking is to connect with your audience and share your message. Durant was very successful on both accounts and gives us a good example of what we have to do to be successful in our own public speaking.

Today is the eve of Mother’s Day. Just like Durant, who through tears said that his mother was the “real MVP”, I would also like to thank my mother for all that she has done for me. Even just in the area of public speaking, it was her who taught me how to do 4-H demonstrations and the 4-H Communications Contest. My mother gave me all kinds of support during my high school public speaking in 4-H, FFA and the speech team. It is her sacrifice that has made me the man I am today. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.

Image credit: Keith Allison, 2014

Question: What has your mother taught you?

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