- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Kevin Durant spent Wednesday morning in Las Vegas talking to 10 companies that sponsor him while addressing questions on how he handles being a public figure and being chosen as a popular figure on Madison Avenue.
While Durant was one of the most-liked players in the league, he became the most liked this season, according to the Q Scores, thanks in great part to his MVP speech in which he emotionally thanked his mother for her guidance and support.
"I didn't do that to be marketable, to be looked at as one of the more marketable guys," Durant said in an interview with ESPN. "Was just being myself, and, if people like (me) for me being myself, then I'm cool with it. I'm not trying to be nobody else or act a different way. I'm still a work in progress just like everybody else so I'm just going to continue to keep being who I am, and I enjoy all the partners that partner with me. I just try to do my best to represent them and do everything in authentic ways."
Despite his celebrity and riches, Durant, who counts 2K Sports, Sprint and BBVA Compass among his sponsors, said he doesn't find it hard to stay grounded.
"To be honest, if I wasn't so tall, I could just fit in anywhere because of my personality," Durant said. "I don't take myself too seriously; I'll stay in the back of the line at Chipotle. I don't come in anywhere and act like everybody needs to stand still because I'm in the room. I think I can just come in and fit in with everybody. That's how I try to look at it. I'm (a) normal person that just plays basketball and happens to be on TV here and there."
That doesn't mean people treat Durant like a normal person. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward, who with 7.7 million followers is second to only LeBron James (13.8 million followers) in Twitter popularity, said all the noise led to him having second thoughts about the platform. Durant said he will delete Twitter applications from his phone to help keep his mind "pure" and "positive."
"I might sign on here and there but for the most part I'll be off of it," Durant said. "When you go in there sometimes and you see that stuff and it kind of sits in your brain for a little bit -- not just my free agency or whatever but just anything -- most of the time you don't see a lot of good news on there."
It's not all smooth sailing among Durant's sponsors, as his biggest deal is in limbo. After seven versions of his signature shoe, Durant's deal with Nike expires this week, and sources say Under Armour, based in his home state of Maryland, is preparing a robust offer.
"Nike has been a part of me ever since I was in high school and have been great since I've been in the league but I'm just going to let my team be the ones who handle that behind the scenes, I guess," Durant said. "When you look at stuff like that, it's great problems to have because people want you for what you know and do on the basketball court, the work you put in, so I'm going to continue to put my work in, let them focus on that on the other end, and we'll come together at some point."
Durant switched agents last June and became the first NBA client of Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports.
"They work so hard for me," Durant said. "It's like a family atmosphere over there. I love it. It's a great decision I made. A lot of people didn't know what was going on before because it was new. I think it has paid off because these guys know how to handle business and they put me in the right positions and gave me some great opportunities."
One of those opportunities was Sparkling Ice, an up-and-coming beverage brand that Durant says he became obsessed with.
"My agents, the marketing guys at Roc Nation, sat down, and I was like, 'Look, this is something I drink every single day and would be cool to be a part of,'" he said.
Durant is now the company's only celebrity spokesperson.
Durant admits his wardrobe off the court has evolved as he has grown and he is ready to shed the connection with the backpack that became part of him thanks to its presence around him during postgame news conferences.
"I still carry a backpack with me but I'd rather put on a suit and people know me for that," Durant said. "I think I ran with that a little bit, too. It's a change in the guard now. I would rather be buttoned up. A backpack is more associated with kid. I think I'm a grown up."
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann