Durant, Beasley open up about childhood friendship, NBA journey

ByChris Haynes ESPN logo
Thursday, March 1, 2018

NEW YORK -- Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant and New York Knicks forward Michael Beasley are childhood friends from Prince George's County, Maryland. They played on the same AAU team and the same high school team. They both chose a Big 12 college, they both were named the conference players of the year as freshmen and they both were No. 2 picks in back-to-back NBA drafts following their lone collegiate seasons.

Since then, their careers have taken different paths. Durant has become an NBA champion and league MVP. Beasley has played for six NBA teams with two stints in China.

The two recently reunited over dinner at the Hunt & Fish Club restaurant in Manhattan, reminiscing about their journeys to the NBA. They discussed topics ranging from how they met, when they knew KD would be a star, Beasley's time in Miami, the broken NCAA system, the professional turmoil they've endured and potentially playing together again.

Here are excerpts, edited for length, from the sit-down interview:

On when they first met ...

Chris Haynes: Y'all been rolling for a while? Since when?

Michael Beasley: 10, 11.

CH: I read somewhere the first time you guys met ...

MB: I took the pizza. I ain't just take the whole thing. I sat there for a minute. I ate one slice. Then one slice turned into another slice. And then it was like, f--- it, ain't nobody going to eat this. He's still in the gym shooting. So I bounced.

By the way, I had totally forgotten about that.

Kevin Durant: That's when I knew we had a wild boy on our hands.

MB: I had no idea we'd be talking about this 20 years later.

KD: I know, right. That's crazy.

MB:S---, I had to eat, man.

KD: Then you start to get to know him, you see how he came up, and I'm like, there's a bunch of them in the house.

MB: Five of us. My cousin, six.

KD: In an apartment. You had to figure out how to get some food. It was me and my brother, so I was always well-fed, you know what I'm saying? So I understood after a while.

CH: Then he started hanging at your place?

KD: We just met up at the rec a lot, wherever we practiced, out of everybody ...

MB: We just kicked it.

KD: Yeah, we just kicked it all the time. And on the court, too, we knew how to play off of each other.

MB: Back then, I was just the rebounder. People don't know. I had like 30 rebounds a game. All offensive rebounds and everything. Get an offensive rebound and just throw it out to KD. Shooting them off from 40 feet.

KD: I was shooting, yeah.

MB: Exactly how he plays now is how he always played. He never played back to the basket. Never post.

KD: I worked on my J's all the time.

On when they knew KD would be in the NBA ...

CH: What did you think of KD when you first saw him?

MB: Crazy. I knew he was going to the NBA when we was 11 years old.

CH: Why?

KD: Man, I didn't have that foreshadowing.

MB: I was just sitting back after practice one day. Or I think they were just running a play, doing something. ... And I looked up, and he was walking under one of those broken flickering lights, and I was like, bro, that's like heaven. He can do this, he can do that, he's going to put on weight. ...

Maybe like a year later, we went to RFK Stadium. We weren't old enough to hoop, so we just had to go the side courts.

KD: Damn, I remember that.

MB: All the dudes on the mic were saying, 'Get this kid an agent.' He 12. Everybody else out there 25. 'Get this kid an agent.' Cross, cross, 40 feet. I knew for a while. My whole life I was always trying to catch up to where he was at.

KD: Hell no.

MB: When I met him, I ain't never played basketball but on the parks. You know what I'm saying? Like, he was working on his game. ... Like I ain't never worked out. I just hooped on the playground, always-picked-first type of guy. I met him, he was always just confident and everything.

KD: See, my story a little different. I was in the gym a lot, but I wouldn't go outside and play a lot. Mike had better feel for the game at that age than I did, because I was in the gym by myself. ...

I had to just cook up until my coach let me go outside and play. I was one of those dudes. So he had a better feel for like a game situation or playing against people, you know what I'm saying? So at that age I was like, "I wanna be like that." I wanted it to come that easy. It was always easy for him.

CH: He said at that age, he knew you were going to the NBA. When did it hit you that that could be a reality?

KD: My whole thing was I lacked confidence early. I knew I was nice, but I had to play well in order for me to really feel like that. So when I didn't play well, my confidence always took a hit, so it was always up and down. So I didn't really know until I got to college and I was just like, "Oh s---, yeah, I'm better than him." "He can't check me." "He can't stop me."I started to gain that confidence, then after a while I'm like, "Oh, this will be a reality right here, this is my life now."

So when I was like 18, I'm like, "I bet I'm in the league." The next year, I'm doing stuff in college that as a freshman nobody was doing.

Next year he at Kansas State, I'm like, "Yeah, we always talked about that." Know what I'm saying? We always talked about that, we was always together from ninth grade, that whole ninth-grade year, that's when we really got tight. We was catching the bus.

JV coach used to pick us up in the morning to take us to school because we lived so far away, so we was always together, traveling to tournaments and it was like, man, we knew we was better than everybody. We knew that, one-on-one, dudes couldn't really stop us. So we envisioned that, you know what I'm saying, doing what we did in college, and we knew the sky was the limit once I seen what he was doing.

What we did as kids kind of paid off.

On dunking on each other as kids ...

CH: What was the age when you guys had your first dunk?

MB: 11, 12.

KD: I was in eighth grade.

MB: We used to dunk on each other. We used to play a game.

KD: Stand under the rim.

MB: Work out, one person stand under the rim after the workout, he run full speed, I try to block it, and he dunk on me. Then we do it again, "All right, it's my turn."

CH: Who got the best of each other most of the time?

KD: It was pretty even, to be honest.

On growing up together ...

CH: I've seen the neighborhood. It seems like everybody knows each other. That's the feel I got. But it's still crazy to think that two guys from that area made it this far. What do you guys think about when you think about where you guys came from to where you are now?

MB: Honestly, it was fun.

KD: We had a good time as kids, man.

MB: I tell people all the time like, man, when you a kid, you don't know you're in the hood or you don't know you poor. You just accepting your environment when you a child, and that's when your friends are really your friends, wholeheartedly and nothing malicious. And it's always, you know -- maybe you stole somebody's girlfriend or didn't return somebody's pen -- but when you a kid, you forget how carefree and -- not forget, you don't even know -- it's just out there having fun around good guys. I met him, then I met Nolan right after.

CH: Nolan Smith.

MB: Up until that point, I didn't really have no friends, because I would move around so much. We'd get evicted at this place and that place and that place and that place. KD was like my first real friend, like sleepovers, like he was the first time I ever brought my Xbox out of the house.


CH: That's love. That's love right there. You don't bring the Xbox.

MB: And then I left it over there like, "I'm gonna be here tomorrow morning, I might as well."

KD: Yeah, bro. That's love, bro.

CH: That's crazy. I know what that's about.

KD: People know how that feels. For real. That was our prized possession. When you bring your game out the house. I forgot about that.

MB: Both controllers.

KD: Damn, that's ...

MB: It was fun for me, man. I had a place to go to the rec every day where people would just accept me for me. And once we started playing, once we got to the level we got to, it was just ...

KD: Now looking back on it, our neighborhood wasn't, like, it wasn't friendly. You know what I'm saying? It wasn't like we could just go to anybody's house and feel at home. You had to watch your back out there. Even if you're going out on the streets, you're in a different neighborhood. There's territories out there where we come from. We hooped, though. When you're a hooper, you feel like you get passes everywhere.

MB: No doubt.

KD: We hooped everywhere and we didn't care. That's when I started to realize we were friends. I was always in the gym, either by myself or with Mike or with my team. I ain't really had no real friends, either. I didn't meet friends at school, or my next-door neighbor. I moved around so much. Every year I'd move. We'd move to different apartments. We lived in every part of PG County. So it was like we didn't really have no stable friends or stable household. Moms was at work. Pops wasn't there. We were just hooping. The people we was around all the time was just us. My moms was letting me run the house at 9. She was gone to work. I'm at the house by myself, me and my brothers or whoever.

MB: By the time my brother was 8, he was cooking breakfast and dinner for us. And I was 5.

KD: We had to figure it out. Basketball is what brought us all together. Then you started to see the person. I started to see what he liked to do. I started to see his family. I started to see what he was passionate about outside of basketball, and the same with me.

When we see it now, no matter what our careers are, no matter what I do on the court, no matter what he does on the basketball court, we're at a position where we can take care of our families forever. And we reached the goal. A lot of people don't reach the goal in life. At a high level, we reached the goal. And we're going to be legends in our neighborhood forever just 'cause. I'll take that. Everything that's happening now is a cherry on top.

On the thought of life without basketball ...

CH: Where are you guys at if basketball wasn't in your guys' life?

KD: Right now? I'm probably living with my mom. ...

MB: Yeah, like ...

KD: Or working at the rec center.

CH: You are not living with your mom at 30 years old.

KD: I swear.

MB: Like, bro, like, not to say that we're not good at anything else, but, like, what are we good at?

KD: At that point, I mean ... sorry.

MB: We can put a ball in a basket, and do that really good. Like, other than that ...

KD: Who are we lookin' at?

MB:I didn't even, I didn't declare a major in college. Like, I was thinking about going back to college, like, "Yo, I gotta start from scratch." I ain't get not one credit.

KD: As kids, who are we lookin' at? The inspiration around our crib was, like, Stink, he ran the rec center, people looked up to him.

KD: Or, this fly dude around Seat Pleasant named Lou, he had all the gear. Now I know what he was doin', but back then I didn't. ... Who was we lookin' at?

MB: And basketball was like our only way out, our only way to stay out of trouble.

KD: That's why I say it's always about the game. I always tell him that all the time, like never get away from the game. Like, all this other stuff that goes on around basketball, it does not matter because without this ball bouncing ...

MB: ... I don't exist.

On taking different career paths ...

CH: Same AAU program, same high school, you guys both went to the Big 12, both freshman conference players of the year, both the No. 2 picks in the draft. And there was a point where you thought, possibly, that you probably could get drafted by the same team in Seattle.

But since then, the NBA paths have gone different. Did it seem this narrative has circled around you, as far as "Who is Mike Beasley? What is he about? Is he dedicated to the game?"

When you start seeing people question you as player -- even questioning your character -- what was going through your mind at that time? How were you dealing and focusing on that?

MB: At first I handled it like anybody would've handled it: down on myself, you know, the wrong way, kind of feeling sorry for myself. But then it's just like, you got to a point where you gotta look at yourself in the mirror. If you can't be honest with yourself, then you can't be honest with anybody.

So I was able to be honest with myself, you can start to weed out what's true and what's not true. Once you get to that point, once you're honest with yourself, like, nobody else can be dishonest with you. ... So, it was hard. It's tough, but life is what life is.

CH: How much did you feel like you contributed to it?

MB: It's a lot of different variables that could go into this and go into that. For me to sit here and say, "It was all your fault, and your fault, and your fault, and your fault," that's pretty childish. At the end of the day, everything I've been through on and off the court, I'm the only common denominator. I would be very immature -- I would be very naive -- as to think, like, "It was always somebody else."

Now with that being said, I'm not going to eat the whole pie.


KD: Can I give you my take on it? So with Mike, it was always about focus. Like, he got a supreme skill, you know what I'm sayin'? And he could put the ball in the basket, and he had a knack for the ball ... he was always around the ball. So I knew that as a kid, like you said, he was getting rebounds that grown men couldn't get in a game.

My thing was I had an appropriate fear. Like, I knew if I didn't go to the gym that I wasn't going to be able to perform the right way. Or that next game I wouldn't be able to go out there and produce if I didn't work on my game.

Mike, he had to go through this. He had to realize like, "Damn, this could be taken away from me if I don't lock in." And I knew that, as a friend, it was tough for me to see people defaming his character. This dude would do anything for anybody -- he's loyal, he loves his friends, he loves his family, he loves the game of basketball. But, like I tell a lot of people, I was fortunate enough to go into a situation where -- I didn't have to play behind D-Wade, or I didn't have to live in Miami as a 19-year-old. If I did, it might be a different story.

And my moms was on me from day one. She was always there, always there to let me know when I'm messing up, and sometimes Mike didn't have that person as an 18-, 19-year-old to let him know, like, "Look, man, this is sacred right here. You might need to focus on this a little bit more." He focused on the game, he loved it, but you need to put your whole mind and body and spirit into this.

I had that at an early age. I had people telling me about that. You know what I'm saying? And he came from playing street ball. His parents, his mom, was like, "Yo, you want to play ball? Cool. Go ahead. Have a good time." My mom was like, "Yo, get up. You got to go to the gym."

So it is all about what you was taught as a kid and those habits that you built. And after a while, he built some tough habits, as he would say. But now he had to go through that just so he could see now ... that look, every team he's been on the last few years has been like, you know what you gonna get out of him. He scores 20 points any night if you give him the ball. Now he just needs somebody to really invest in that and want that. And I feel it's time now. So we're going to end up in the same place. It's just going to be different paths.

CH:Mike, how tough is it ... 18-, 19-year-old kid living in Miami?

KD:As soon as he was drafted in Miami, all of us was like, "Oh. This can't be good." [Laughter]Who's going down there with him? I'm in Seattle. I dealing with rain every day, so I'm not even leaving the house. And I got [former NBA player Charlie] Bell, older dudes in the neighborhood who can watch over me a little bit. Him on the other hand ...

MB: It was a little different.

CH: So who did you have?

MB: Everybody came down. Like, [KD] had all the right dudes from the neighborhood.

KD: Nobody wanted to come hang out in Seattle. But everybody wants to go to Miami.

MB: He had all the dudes we used to watch growing up who went to college, people who really cared about us and still care about us today. Not to say my family and friends didn't. It's just they cared ... I'll break it down into two different ways: You can love me to death ... or ... you can love me to life. You know what I'm saying?

Love me to death is sitting here giving me advice or telling me what I am doing is right just so you don't make me mad. And you love me, you just don't want to see me mad or upset.

Loving me to life is telling me, "Hey, bro, stop doing that. You need to get in the gym." Things that I might not want to do or things that I might not have on my mind. But kinda almost forcing me to do it. Stopping me from doing certain things and helping me do other things. So, he had the good people from the neighborhood ... and I had everybody else.

KD:But I was groomed to play basketball. I had a Mr. Miyagi. Everybody knew at a young age, this is what I wanted to do. Mike wasn't like that. You know what I'm saying? I was playing ball since I was 8. I mean, taught how to play ball since I was 8. There is a difference between going outside and playing and being taught how to do certain stuff.

MD: Going outside playing 33.

KD: I had a little more discipline around me. I wasn't good at being disciplined as a kid, but I had people that was like, "You gotta do this. You gotta do that." Mike didn't have that. So his path was actually harder than mine was. So, you gotta be mentally tough to do it the way he did.

CH: You had Seattle ... then OKC.

MB: Yeah, he had a lot of gym time.


KD: A lot. A lot.

MB: And I'm in Miami. It's summer all the time.

KD: I'm jealous, boy. Why couldn't this be me? Why couldn't this be a year earlier and ball done bounce this way earlier?

MB: It was fun, though. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change it. Those lessons. Like you said ... I had to go through somethingto wrap my head back around it. Like he said, I wasn't groomed to play it, like I used to just pick it up 'cause I was good. Not that I didn't love it, 'cause I always loved it. It was my heart, but I was always like, man, let me get up and down a couple of times so I can give somebody buckets. You know? And like he said, playing outside all the time.

You know, so it's just a different path. I had to learn how to grow up, man.

KD: We all just grew up different. I mean, I had to go through certain things in order for me to finally gain confidence in myself, know who I am outside of basketball. Like, we just had to deal with different things that we both went through a lot. You know mentally to get to where we are today, and we still growing. That's a perfect thing, like, once you realize it's an ongoing process, that's when you start to appreciate what you been through.

On KD joining the Warriors ...

CH:Mike, KD talked about the crucial point in your life and watching you kind of go through your trials and tribulations in the NBA. Now him, on the other hand, it seems like the scrutiny -- if you want to call it scrutiny -- didn't come to him until he joined the Warriors ...

KD: We played in Milwaukee last year, I'm coming out the hallway, the first thing he do is give me a big hug and was like, "Man, I'm proud of you." ... I wouldn't have made that decision a few years back. I would have been worried about everybody ...

Trying to make everybody else happy, and he gave me a big hug, and that made me feel good because it's like, man, he know me to the core. Like known me from like 8, 9, 10 years old when I had nothing, so that made me feel good. That was a special moment.

MB: He'll give you the shirt off his back, and I know a lot of people say that, but that's always been who he was. He would sacrifice what he want to do to make somebody else happy. You know, so when I seen him make the decision to go to the Warriors, I'm not looking at him joining this or joining this. I'm looking at him wanting to play basketball, wholehearted basketball. To where it's no pressure, but it's fun. The numbers is for everybody, shots is for everybody. Playing basketball the right way. But more than that, he made a decision to make himself happy, man. And I was so happy to see him do that because, up into my life, I hadn't done that yet.

And that kind of inspired me to do certain things, not just basketball, but certain things in my life better. And to treat myself, because we work, and it's a game at the end of the day, but we work so hard at it, we put our life into it, we sacrifice so much that everybody else don't, and we never get to treat ourselves.

We always taking care of everybody else, and not that it's a burden or anything like that, but not a lot of decisions are made off what you want in your heart. And when he made that decision, I knew that he just said, "You know what, I love everybody else, but I'm a man."

When I became proud of him the most is when he start coming out in the media and started speaking his mind.

And everybody's looking like, man, that's not him. Like, that is him if you know him. It's just he know who he is now. You know? And when he made that decision, it was like, bro, his destiny is his own no matter what he do from here on out. No matter what they say from here on out, he's his own man. And that decision right there just proved it to me anyway.

KD: Appreciate that, brother.

CH:I remember when the decision was made, and the backlash that came from it, but you know, you talk about pressure. There was a lot of pressure, like, you gotta win now.

KD: But my thing was like, man, I'll always go back to those teams when we was young. That was the best time of my life. It was carefree, you didn't have to worry about nothing but just playing. We had good people around us, you know what I'm saying? You went and searched for that.

It's hard to do that out in the real world because obviously we got more responsibilities as we get older, and you learn more, and you experience more so you kind of see things for what they are.

Back then we had that, I want that kidlike feeling again for the game, and I wanted to try and duplicate that. And I was like, man, this is the perfect spot for me to play like we played with the Jaguars, you know what I saying? I always thought about us every single day as I was going through it. In the Hamptons, July 1, going through that whole thing. I was just like, I need that feeling again.

On Beasley's future ...

CH: So Mike, where are you at right now in your life? I know you made some changes professionally. You're putting up the numbers, shooting 40 percent from 3, 50 percent from the field, around 13 points per game. You still get buckets. Where are you at right now in your career?

MB: Hungry. Grateful, but not satisfied. Like I can score, but that's not like my main focus. Like I want the opportunity. I want someone, a coach, an organization to believe in me to the point where I can win games. ... 'Cause my thing is I don't want to just score, I want to make players better. And I didn't even know that about myself until I went to China the first time.

It became fun to see my teammates' reaction to things that they didn't even think that they could do. You know? And to me, that's like the fun of it. When we all playing the right way, when we all making the right pass ...

You know, and I've always wanted to be the guy, like the KD, the LeBron type to bring that aura and that atmosphere and those type of wins to the city. You know, so I'm still at a place to where I'm hungry. I still work at a place everyday like, I got gym schedule when I leave here.

CH: Hold on, it's 10:30 at night.

MB: Yeah, contrary to beliefs, man, I work so hard on my game. Like my style, Melo just said something recently, the midrange is a lost art. I 100 percent agree. Kids don't even know the triple threat anymore.

Where I'm at in my career, I still got a lot in the tank. I still got a lot of years to play, and I want to play at the level of championship talent and try to bring my team there, and have fun doing it.

On the NCAA ...

CH: What do you think about what's going on with the NCAA?

KD: First off, they gotta stop publicizing how much money we make as NBA players 'cause it's driving these parents and these kids crazy.

So now they're saying, oh, such and such just made $200 million on a five-year deal. What you think his parents now talk about? They're not even worrying about the game no more, it's like, "Oh yeah, you need to go get that." You know what I'm saying? Whereas back in the day, I didn't know what none of these dudes was making? I just wanted to be them. I just wanted to be like them on the basketball court. So that's one thing, in my opinion -- obviously it's not gonna happen -- but I think that's one of the reasons why you're going crazy around here with the cash ...

And giving power to a bunch of kids. Come on, 18, 19 years old, these kids get to dictate. ... They running these shoe companies, they running these coaches, they can like, blink-of-an-eye be like, nah, I don't want to go there, you don't got enough money for me.

When you putting that much power into a kid's hands, for one, you manipulating them and playing with them because you got more money than them. That's messed up to me, but at the same time, these kids out here slaving for your programs and bringing a lot of money to these schools and we had $300 scholarship checks from the school -- $300 a month. When I was at Texas. I don't know what it's like right now, but it can't be much more.

MB: Yeah, and it's sad, man, because in most cases these kids don't know what's going on. Like, a lot of these kids are just playing and their parents are taking advantage of them. Do I think that college players should be compensated for the money, not just basketball but football also, the money that they generate the NCAA? Yes, but on how to do it, I don't have that answer.

CH: I gotta ask you, you guys were the biggest names in college at your time. Did anybody ever come offer you guys?

KD: I ain't know about it, if they did. I'm sure they did. I'm sure somebody tried to dangle some bread, but we ain't have nothing ...

MB: You gotta be honest at the end of the day, but his mom and my mom are exactly alike.

KD:'Cause in the neighborhoods you ain't want to owe nobody nothing.

MB: Facts. And that's always been our mindset ...

KD: On top of that, we could've waited another year. You know what I'm saying? We been living like this for a minute.

MB: Bro.

KD: One time it hit me, we had played Tennessee. We lost the game, but I played well, I had like 30, and I'm going home for Christmas break ...

I'm talking about, like, in my freshman year, I'm scoring 30s. People know who I am in the basketball world, and it hit me when I went home. You know where we live in Pembrook Terrace, like we ain't have no door. Me and my brother at the time, I'm 6-9, my brother 6-7, we staying in the same room. Like two beds in one room, my mom's room is right next to it. I'm walking in the house, in the apartment and I'm like dang, I'm still here.

But I turn on ESPN, and I'm right there.

Life come at you real fast, and then you get back home and see how you living, and it's like, I need to get up out of here. You know what I'm saying, but I knew if I could do it all that time I could wait another year. I could wait a few more months so I wouldn't have to worry about somebody saying, look, you gotta pay me this back. I did this for you, I did that for you, I was like, I'm not trying to have that, especially in our neighborhood.

On playing together one day ...

CH: You guys ever talk about coming full circle, and playing together in the NBA?

MB: Yeah.

KD: I mean, obviously.

MB: I'm not sure if I'm ready yet.


MB: He a hard act to follow.


KD: But we basketball purists, man.

MB: Playing the right way and ...

KD: You just want to play the right way, and you enjoy playing the right way ...

MB:... and then everybody have fun.

KD: That was our only source of fun.

KD: That's the only way we can get away from what was going on at home. Not having our pops there all the time. Mom's angry 'cause she coming home from work. ... So that's where we get it from, and a lot of people don't understand that because they just know us as soon as we get to the NBA.

MB: That's all they see.

KD: But they don't know the context of like, why we want to play ball so much, and why we enjoy it and why you just want to please your teammates. You want to learn from your coaches, and you just want to have a good time 'cause it's like, we have a short amount of time left to play ball when it comes compared to the rest of our lives. So want to enjoy it for as long as we can.

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