The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center’s Grand Ballroom was full of people Friday afternoon. But just after the clock struck 4 p.m., every seat was empty.
When Longhorn legend Kevin Durant took the stage to begin his conversation with University students, he received a standing ovation and cheers boomed throughout the room.
“Kevin’s been wanting to come back and do something educational in a leadership space,” said Daron Roberts, the founder of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation and moderator of the event. “He only spent one year here, but he loves this place. I think it was special for him to see standing room only, students cheering.”
Durant and Roberts covered a variety of topics throughout the event.
But the seven-time All-Star’s response to the question about why he chose to play for Texas received one of the loudest applauses of the event.
“Once I got off the plane, I was blown away,” Durant said. “By the time the weekend was over, I was telling my mom and dad, ‘This is where I want to go, let’s make it happen.’”
The conversation also covered Durant’s highly publicized and controversial decision to join the Golden State Warriors, who are coming off an NBA Finals appearance and the all-time record for regular season wins. Several students asked about the move and its repercussions.
“It took a lot of thinking, a lot of talking to the people I love and care about,” Durant said. “This is something I felt I needed to do for me. I knew there was going to be a lot of backlash, but I felt great about it, and I’m excited to start this new chapter with a new team.”
Another highly anticipated topic was Durant’s reaction to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s choice to sit during the national anthem in protest.
The protests have received mixed responses from fans and media, but Durant said he supports Kaepernick’s decision.
“I’m behind anyone who stands up for what they believe in,” Durant said. “I don’t think he’s trying to disrespect anyone, he’s just trying to get his
President Gregory Fenves attended the event as well as head basketball coach Shaka Smart, but the vast majority of the crowd was made up of students.
A handful of randomly selected students were given the chance to ask Durant a question, including Talia Milan, a communication studies and human relations junior.
“I barely could get any words out, I was so excited,” Milan said. “He’s one of my idols and one of the people I look up to.”
Durant expressed his appreciation for the University and his fans several times throughout the event. He was also recognized at Saturday’s football game against UTEP as an Outstanding Young Texas Ex award recipient.
“It means a lot to represent this place and all the people that feel so passionate about it,” Durant said. “For them to recognize me just means the world.”