At 6’7″ and with a name similar to past NBA player Devean George and current player Kevin Durant, Devin George Durrant has probably had some interesting conversation starters.
“To say the least,” he laughs. “I introduce myself as Devin Durrant, and I get kind of like a strange look, and I can tell people are thinking of Kevin Durant.”
Devin Durrant was born in Brigham City, a small city in northern Utah. He moved from Provo and Salt Lake City before moving to Louisville, Kentucky, in what Durrant called a fortuitous move. It was there that he was introduced to the game, and with supportive coaches fell in love with basketball. The 3 years he spent in Kentucky would include some of the highlights of his early teen years. He and a friend would attend Kentucky Colonels at Freedom Hall watching American Basketball Association stars, who had become on par with NBA talent. There was one player who they especially looked forward to watching. Julius Erving, or, “Dr. J”, whose high-flying athleticism made him a superstar and helped shape the modern game, left an imprint on Durrant that would help fuel his drive to the NBA.
After 3 years in Kentucky it was back to Utah, where he would become a standout at Provo High School. He was invited to the McDonald’s All-American game and was able to play against the best high school players in America, including a stop in the Washington, DC area.
“I just remember how intimidated I felt. The first All-Star game we practiced at DeMatha High School. These high school kids were men.”
One of those players at the Hyattsville, Maryland event was Mark Aguirre a future NBA All-Star. Eventually he settled in and continued to improve, and was invited to several more national games. As destiny would have, it his last all-star game was the 1978 US All-Stars versus Kentucky and Indiana All-Stars. It brought him back to his early teen years and his first taste of basketball in Louisville, Kentucky and Freedom Hall. Durrant made it matter and was voted the game’s most valuable player.
“That was a fun memory for me to be able to go back to Louisville and play in a place like Freedom Hall and enjoy some success,” he said.
He continued at Provo High School where they went undefeated and won the 1978 Utah state championship. After high school he attended nearby Brigham Young University. After 2 years Durrant chose to stop playing basketball to focus on missionary work with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Madrid, Spain. During this time, he vowed not to take a jump shot for two years. He was focused, but this time on a different mission.
“It’s a complete focus. Really 24-7, you’re focused on being a missionary,” he said.
When he left BYU basketball had become stale. He had been playing since he was 8 or 9 years old. The time was beneficial and the distance made him miss the game. When Durrant came back to BYU, he was ready.
His first two seasons, he averaged 13.2 and 13.3 points per game. Upon his return in his third season he averaged 22.8 points.
“It was a sweet homecoming,” he said.
It got sweeter after his junior year. Durrant got married. The next year, his senior year his scoring average went up again to 27.9 points per game, good for third in the country.
“I like to give her credit for the increase in the scoring average, “ he laughed. “The benefits of being married to a great woman.”
Durrant was picked 25th by the Indiana Pacers in the 1984 NBA draft that included Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. He also had the opportunity to play against his boyhood idol.
“I remember in one game I was guarding Julius and just trying to keep up, frankly. So I’m grabbing him and pushing him and shoving him, just doing anything I could to slow him down. Finally during a break, I’m staying next to Julius and he says to the official, “Get this guy off of me,” referring to me.”
“I almost said, hey look, Julius, you’re my hero. Whatever you’d like me to do, I’m happy to do it. I just want to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed watching you play over the years. I almost wanted to go from competitor to fan of Julius in the moment,” he said.
He did add that even with Dr. J at the tail end of his career, he didn’t cause him any problems defensively, a testament to the greatness of the era.
Durrant’s NBA career continued with the Phoenix Suns the following year and eventually, like Kentucky, he would revisit another place from his past. Before it was over, he would play professional basketball in Spain, returning, now with his wife to the place, where he didn’t shoot a jump shot for two years.
He would have loved to continue his career in basketball, but it ended and he joined a software company called Word Perfect, the word processor company. Then four years later joined a real estate company, which he continues today.
Durrant still keeps up with the game. He says today’s athletes are bigger, faster and stronger. At the same time, he adds, the best athletes from past eras would rise to the top in today’s environment.
“The game keeps getting better and better,” he said.
From Utah and Kentucky to BYU, Spain and the NBA Durrant is happy with his route to the NBA and his place after. Devin and his wife Julie have 6 children and 15 grandchildren.
Life moves on, he says. He was named among the top 10 Utah college basketball players of the past 100 years, and was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame among other accolades. Basketball played a role in his life, but he’s not frozen in time, and he has maintained the relationships on and off the court that have lasted far beyond the game. He and his wife think about the friendships from different phases in life.
“These are some of our NBA friends, these are our Spanish friends, these are our WordPerfect friends, our real estate friends, our Texas friends, our Salt Lake City friends,” he said.
The relationships don’t stop there. Durrant lives a life with a heart inclusive and open to everyone, including the basketball star with a similar name. When asked if he’s related to Kevin Durant, his answer is consistent with what he’s learned in life, before, during and after his mission, or basketball intermission, in Spain.
“So then I laugh and, usually my answer is, yes, we’re related. He’s my brother,” he said.
“I don’t know that Kevin Durant would claim me, but I certainly claim him.”