Kevin Durant won the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player award and the hearts of people around the world when he acknowledged his mom: “You sacrificed for us. You the real MVP.”
Video and words from the speech immediately went viral, inspiring millions of people, Mother’s Day commercials and ultimately, the development of a film, "The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story," which aired Saturday night on Lifetime.
“I never thought that him mentioning me in a speech for an award he deserved the accolades for would inspire a movie about my life,” Wanda shared.
Within six months after the heartwarming speech and global response, Durant’s agent Gina Ford and business manager Brynee Baylor, thought the full story should be told. After approaching Flavor Unit about the film, they loved it and Queen Latifah came on as Executive Producer. Flavor Unit brought the idea to Lifetime and the rest was history.
As a single mother with two boys at the age of 21, life wasn’t easy for “Mama Durant” as she is affectionately called. Though Kevin acknowledged several people in his life, including his brothers, friends and dad in his speech, when speaking about his experiences with his mom, he started to become more emotional.
At one point, he described their family moving around and then finally having their own place. Durant shared her memory the experience, “I had lived with my mom and stayed with other people for short periods of time. I think that’s why [the experience] resonated with Kevin so profoundly because I wanted it to be that moment; that we had our own home finally, the three of us,” she said.
A moment between Durant and her sons in an empty living room is reenacted in the film and can be seen in the trailer. Durant believes Flava Unit did an outstanding job, especially in casting Cassandra Freeman, who plays her in the film. “I often said, she made my story believable to me, and I know the story,” Durant shared.
In addition to filming her short cameo, she enjoyed her time with Cassandra. “When we were together for that day [the first day they met] it was like we were old friends — like I was her older cousin or her auntie. She was able to get my voice just from that limited interaction we had,” Durant explained.
Years before Durant’s son’s live love letter to her, she inspired others around the country sharing her faith and story as a public speaker. Durant remembers when she first started and said, “After Kevin had charity game during the NBA lockout, he had made a substantial donation to the Single Parent network. They wanted him to present the donation but he suggested that I do it since it would be more relevant to me, because it was for single parents.”
She was surprised at the reactions from the audience and her desire to share her story with others grew. “I started to realize my purpose in life and share my life story to inspire people dream, believe and achieve.”