It took some peer pressure and some encouragement from his mother, but now Durant is bringing Hollywood to Oklahoma City for a few days. The two-time NBA scoring champion filmed scenes from the upcoming movie "Thunderstruck" Tuesday at the team's home arena, including the pivotal sequence when his basketball skills are magically switched with a clumsy teenager to throw the Thunder's playoff hopes into question.
"That's not my style, man. Doing a movie? I'm a low key guy, and that's something I didn't want to get into," Durant said.
Durant plays himself in the movie. Nickelodeon star Taylor Gray misses a halfcourt shot so badly that it hits Oklahoma City's mascot, Rumble, in the arena tunnel and he tracks down the ball at the same time as Durant. He says he wishes he could play as well as Durant, and the Thunder superstar says he wishes he could help.
The wish magically gets granted, with the downside being that Durant suddenly has the skills of a kid who couldn't make his own high school basketball team.
"It was pretty cool. I'm going to be nervous about how people view the movie and how they think my performance was," Durant said. "I really don't care now. I did it, it was fun, I enjoyed myself, I made some friends along the way, so I think it was a success."
Durant follows in the footsteps of Michael Jordan's "Space Jam" and Shaquille O'Neal's "Kazaam," leaving his acting performance to be evaluated by movie critics or the general public, for better or worse.
"I really didn't know what 'nailed it' was. People told me I did a good job but they could just be blowing smoke," Durant said. "I didn't know what was going on. People said I did good, so I guess I'll take their word."
Brandon T. Jackson, a veteran of "Tropic Thunder" and "Big Momma's House," gave Durant's acting skills a thumbs up and joked that his biggest challenge was that his "neck hurts from saying my lines to him."
"Some basketball players are not good actors. He's really good. Let's just say it bluntly," said Jackson, who plays Durant's agent in the movie "He's really good, for it to be his first movie. I remember my first movie, I was shaky and scared and just saying lines that weren't even on the page — which turned out to be funny later on."
Durant's real-life agent, Eric Goodwin, found the script and presented the idea to producer Mike Karz and director John Whitesell. Karz did some exploring and was impressed with Durant's personality and how he handled himself in interviews in front of the camera.
"Certainly, we've seen it work both ways in the history of movies. But with Kevin, we just had a feeling. ... Clearly, he seems like just a fantastic guy. And when we met him, we were correct. He is a great guy," Karz said.
"And his persona, his true life persona, reflects itself in the movie because he does play himself — he's very sweet, compassionate guy and in the movie he has this magical thing that happens to him which makes his life worse initially and ultimately it all works out in the end."
Karz said producers even decided to include Durant in additional scenes after he handled it well in the early days of shooting. The Warner Bros. crews spent about three weeks in Louisiana in September, completing about 80 per cent of the movie, and plan to finish up the filming with Wednesday night's game against New Orleans.
"He is a world-class athlete, one of the best in the world, and when he does something he does it with 100 per cent commitment and passion and that's the way he approached the movie," Karz said. "He rehearsed, he ran his lines, he worked with the other actors and he just approached it like it was a big game and did the best he could."
The film is expected to come out later this year, possibly as early as April. It also stars Jim Belushi and William Ragsdale.
"I've done commercials before but that was just like a commercial on steroids, as you would say," Durant said. "It was so much time put into one scene. We would go over it three or four times. It was just a lot of work. I see what those guys go through over there acting.
"It was different, it was cool, it was fun but it was one of those things that I would pass on doing the next time."
Durant said the initial filming session included days when he was on set from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. and scenes were repeated 20 times or more. That the filming took place during the NBA lockout helped, but he said he's not sure if he's willing to devote that much time to doing another film. He may just stick to 30-second commercials instead.
"I'm done," he said. "I'm just playing basketball."