A decade ago, Kevin Durant unleashed beast mode and gave local New Yorkers a highlight reel for the ages at the “mecca” of basketball, Rucker Park.
Maybe Kevin Durant was meant to be in New York from the beginning.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, the current Brooklyn Nets star toured different parks in New York to shoot some hoops and have fun. After all, who wouldn’t want the (at the time) reigning scoring NBA champion on their team?
His performance at Harlem’s Rucker Park, however, was something extra special. Rucker Park was famous for pickup games that included Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant. Before New York basketball fans saw the greats play in Madison Square Garden, they witnessed their blood, sweat, and tears in Rucker Park first, where it all started.
Like any public court, Rucker Park was the place for players to show off flashy moves, handles, and dribbling. But it was also a battleground for some of the fiercest competitors to leave it all out on the court — and what Durant did in the summer of 2011 was legendary.
Kevin Durant played one of the best games of his career.. at a park
In between the free-flowing trash talk and under the bright park lights, the towering 6-foot-10 forward may have stuck out like the neon on Miami Heat’s 2021 court, but no one could deny that Durant was in his natural element.
Playing for DC Power in the Entertainers Basketball Classic, Durant dropped 66 points — including four straight 3s at the end of the game — and looked as if he could burst into flames any moment. On his last shot, the crowd spilled onto the court and mobbed Durant. At 23 years old, the then-Oklahoma City scoring leader had already captured the hearts of many basketball fans, but at this moment, at this park, he was the people’s champion.
Durant remembered the game like it was yesterday, telling GQ magazine in a 2017 interview:
“I remember I just put my shorts and jersey on and my shoes, then I look up and it’s packed all the way to the gate, playing music, and seeing people in the high-risers across the street turning lights on and opening windows. It was like something out of a movie.”
Since Durant, a new generation of players have grown up on the courts at Rucker, from Kemba Walker to Isaiah Washington. Even if Durant doesn’t win a championship with the Brooklyn Nets (though they seem well-positioned to do so), he’ll still have one very fond New York memory he can look back on.
Watch Durant’s Rucker Park highlights below: