There he was, standing in front of his teammates, a slew of executives and the rest of the world during a 2014 news conference announcing him as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. Settled behind the podium, tears began to creep down Kevin Durant’s face as he thanked his family and friends. It was a well deserved honor. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward garnered 119 of the 125 first place votes after averaging an NBA best 32 points, 7.4 rebounds and a career high 5.5 assists during the 2014 season. He led his team to the second best record in the Western conference and at times, Durant completely dominated the court. Now, it was time to reflect and show his appreciation to those who had helped him overcome all of the obstacles it took to win the coveted award.
In what might possibly be categorized as one of the most emotional moments in NBA history, Durant sniffled, paused, and turned his attention to his mother, Wanda Pratt, whose face, by then, was already drenched in tears of joy. In fact, there were no dry-eyes in sight as Durant captivated the crowd in a heartfelt, 26-minute monologue dedicated to his mom.
“You sacrificed for us,” he said, before belting out the now-infamous phrase: “You’re the real MVP.”
Since then, the Internet has generated memes, gifs and hashtags memorializing the moment, but neither Durant nor his mother realized the impression those words would have in the grander scheme of things.
Now, two years later, the Lifetime network is set to air a television movie inspired by the speech and Pratt’s life as a single parent. “You’re the Real MVP: The Wanda Pratt Story,” will be directed by former music and culture critic, Nelson George and depicts Pratt and her boys’ journey as a family trying to escape poverty on the outskirts of Washington D.C.
A few months after her son’s heartwarming speech, Pratt says her agent connected her with Queen Latifah’s production company, Flavor Unit. “We talked about possibly doing a movie on my life and that’s how the ball got rolling,” she says.
Pratt helped pick the final actors and actresses that would portray her and her sons. She was also a part of the script writing process and even visited the set. “I saw a few of the scenes acted out,” she says, “which was very emotional for me.”
Durant, however, has been completely hands-off the project. He’s in the running for the MVP award again this year and his game schedule is simply too demanding. “I’m just supporting it because I’m a huge part of the story,” Durant says. “Just being there for my Mom.”
Actress Cassandra Freeman (Inside Man, Single Ladies) is set to play Pratt, while Tony and Kevin will be portrayed by newcomers Daniel Bellomy and Nic Few.
Looking back on the moment that spawned the film, Durant remembers the embrace he received from his mother at the conclusion of his speech. “She said thank you and I appreciate the kind words,” he recalls. “She didn’t know I felt that way because I really don’t express my feelings a lot but she thanked me for recognizing her on a big stage like that.”
Pratt, who now conducts motivational speeches across the country catered towards single mothers and pregnant teens, believes the reason why her son’s speech became so reassuring to others is because their situation is so relatable.
“It was totally unexpected how it has caught on. I think it’s really endearing and it has resonated with so many people because our story is common; it’s not something that is totally unique,” she says. “Our circumstances are geared towards us, of course, but the struggle of a single mother trying to do the best for her children resonates with so many, the mothers and the children and that’s why it was taken to heart so powerfully.”
As for the memes that still circulate around the Internet, especially on Mother’s Day, Durant says he has “no control” over that.
“If people want to make a joke about it, then that’s cool, there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s the world we live in now,” he says. “It was definitely a big part of my life, and I’m glad people thought it was funny or was inspired by it.”
You’re the Real MVP: The Wanda Pratt Story is premieres on May 7 on Lifetime at 8 pm ET.