AUSTIN, Texas -- All eyes will be on Kevin Durant this summer for some very big basketball reasons.
After LeBron James and Stephen Curry declined invitations to play for Team USA, Durant is officially the biggest star on a USA Basketball roster that is tasked with bringing home the gold at the Rio Olympics. And, as an unrestricted free agent, Durant has a huge decision to make that will undoubtedly affect not only the rest of his NBA career, but his legacy, as well.
It made sense, then, to return to the friendly confines of Austin, Texas, for the launch of his latest signature sneaker from Nike, the KD9 -- the calm before the storm that will be Durant's summer tour.
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Though he spent just one college season playing basketball at the University of Texas, and was on campus a total of only 10 months before moving on to the NBA, it was a safe and controlled environment for him to reflect on the beginning of his journey, while introducing his newest sneaker to the masses.
"I didn't know what to expect," Durant said of his transition from high school to college. "I came here a month or two months prior to settling in here, so this was my second time in Texas when I actually got off the plane. The day before I had just graduated from high school with 16 people, and that whole next week, I was seeing 16 new people every day.
"That was a big change for me, coming from a small community and then coming here, where it's 40 acres and 60,000 students, there were just so many different types of people here and it just opened my mind to something that I didn't think was around. I was so used to being in that small community back in Maryland, so to spread my wings here, it was the best place for me."
Being so far from that Maryland home, Durant didn't have the luxury of leaning on friends or family for a whole lot of in-person support. That meant making new friendships, some of which are still strong to this day. But it also gave him plenty of time to focus on honing his craft, while becoming more independent as a person.
"I wanted to see what it was like living somewhere else besides the Virginia, Maryland, D.C. area," Durant said. "And coming here to Texas, I was all alone. Thanksgiving, I had to go to coach's house. I didn't spend it with my family. The rest of my teammates, they went home. I stayed here. Christmas, I spent a day home and came back.
"All those other guys were just a drive away (from family), where me, I felt like I was out here, no family, no friends. I had to figure life out. Along with the help of my teammates and coaches, everybody at the program, they made it a special place that I always love coming back to."
Durant looked back even further into his past, to the time when he was just a kid spending all day working on his game.
A legendary part of Durant's childhood development involved him running hill sprints at a place called "Hunt's Hill" in his hometown of Seat Pleasant, Maryland. He'd do this after a long day of basketball workouts, often times to the point of exhaustion.
But it wasn't always by choice.
Durant explained how his mother was the one behind it all, and why he wouldn't challenge her authority no matter how tired he might have been.
"My mom made me," he said, becoming excited as the memories came flooding back. "Simple as that. I would go all day. I would work out all day and then I'd have to run the hill at night, I mean, I was like, this is bull----, why do I got to do this?
"I can't respond to my mom," he said. "I can't really say anything. If I say anything, she's going to take it somewhere else. You know, if I complain, she's going to think I'm disrespecting her, and we're going to have this whole standoff thing. So I was just like, alright, I'll do it.
"But if you go six hours, seven hours throughout the day working on your game and then at night you got to run up a hill, you're going to get some pushback. So she understood that -- but she still made me do it."
It's obvious that the hard work has paid off, but emerging as a top-five NBA player comes with great responsibility. Durant felt that when committing to Team USA this summer, even after so many players, for one reason or another, chose to drop out. Why was it so important to him personally?
"Well, it's the Olympics," Durant told FOX Sports. "You don't get that opportunity a lot, and a lot of the guys -- from Carmelo, to LeBron, to [Chris Paul], they played in multiple. I think LeBron might have played in three of them.
"Guys have played in two or three Olympics, and I wanted to be one of those guys. Simple as that. And i just wanted to compete this summer. When you're in game mode, it's a little different than when you're in workout mode in the summer. It'll be cool to be in game mode earlier than usual."
Before the Olympics even get started, Durant is expected to make his free agent decision. He can begin meeting with teams on July 1, and has reportedly narrowed his list to just six teams.
"I know how important this time is," Durant said. "Like I've been saying all season, I have people I trust. I have all the trust in the world with them that we'll sit down and figure this thing out, figure out what's best for me. It's a little bit more complicated now, but it's still a few weeks away. It's one of those situations where you work hard to put yourself in a situation to kind of, control your you destiny.
"I give all the credit to how much work I put in and the people who've helped me put that work in. I'm worried about basketball. That's what it is for me. It's a basketball decision. I'm looking forward to the future.
"I know everyone is wondering what's gonna happen. This whole (free agency) thing has become a season, I guess, in the NBA. I know how important it is for everyone else. But I'll take my time, look at what's in front of me and go from there."
And the eyes of the NBA world will be watching.