The Humble Games, Starring Kevin Durant

  • Kevin Durant
    Kevin Durant

    If you needed any further proof that Kevin Durant is the most humble athlete alive today, all you need to do is watch his MVP speech. In addition to his powerful tribute to his mother, Durant singled out his teammates one by one and reflected on his life in a thoughtful way, in a way that pretty much no 25-year-old ever has.

    That level of wisdom and care that he poured into that speech, he also puts into his on-court game. The most talented pure scorer in the NBA, Durant can put the ball in from anywhere on the floor but also has the maturity and confidence to act like he’s been there before, and it’s what makes him one of the most uniquely interesting superstars the game has had in years.

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  • Tim Duncan
    Tim Duncan

    How does someone with five rings, two MVPs, and 14 All-Star selections stay grounded? That’s a phenomenal question, and one Duncan has never really addressed beyond saying that being famous just doesn’t interest him. Revered in the NBA for his professionalism and commitment to the game (you don’t get nicknamed “The Big Fundamental” by accident), he has also received the Virgin Islands Medal of Honor and has worked with numerous charities throughout his decorated career. Really, the worst thing the guy does is his bug eyes routine when he disagrees with a foul call. It’s pretty remarkable.

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  • Drew Brees
    Drew Brees

    In a league built on the idea that its stars engage in macho posturing and possess all kinds of swagger, Drew Brees is a truly unusual star. While quarterbacks are always a bit different, Brees is especially different, always eager to defer any credit for success to his teammates.

    The Saints’ star has been the constant during the team’s decade-long rise to the NFL’s elite. Forever beloved in New Orleans for his work off the field following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the undersized Brees has never forgotten that despite making eight Pro Bowls (and counting), he is still the same underdog everybody has loved rooting for his entire career.

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  • Roger Federer
    Roger Federer

    Roger Federer has been in the top 10 in the world of tennis every single week since October of 2002, and while he is ancient in tennis years (32), he nevertheless has shown as recently as Wimbledon this year that he can still play with the best. He has set numerous records for Grand Slam events, and has won 17 of them in all. Through it all, though, he has maintained a calm demeanor on the court to go with a very gentle personality off of it. He has twice been named the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year, and spends a great deal of his time away from the court pursuing numerous philanthropic endeavors.

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  • Derek Jeter
    Derek Jeter

    The season-long Derek Jeter lovefest may be getting a little old, but if you really think about the reasons behind why it is happening, you begin to understand the shortstop’s baseball legacy. It’s not just that Jeter is a great player (although 3420 hits for a career is no joke); it’s that to watch him play, you’d never know this was one of the greatest players of all-time. Throughout his 20-year career, he has simply gone to the park, gone about his business, and gone home. There have never been any headline-grabbing antics, PED whispers, or character complaints. Simply put, Jeter is the epitome of a professional.

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  • Kawhi Leonard
    Kawhi Leonard

    The NBA Finals MVP is about as humble as it gets, rarely even uttering a word off the court. After the way he got the better of the world’s best player in LeBron James, Leonard could be forgiven for starting to buy into the hype. That isn’t his style, though, and after being named MVP the first thing he said was “I have a great group of guys behind me.” A Spur through and through, the quietly dominant Leonard seems a logical successor to a certain teammate of his, one who has redefined what a star can be in the NBA.

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  • Steve Nash
    Steve Nash

    Steve Nash has made a career out of defying expectations, and with two MVP trophies, the third-most assists in NBA history, and a surefire spot in the Hall of Fame, it would be hard to blame him if he carried himself with a chip on his shoulder. Only, that’s now how Nash operates. The cerebral Canadian instead speaks softly and lets his play do the talking, speaking only in the most calm and pleasant tone possible away from the court.

    His ability to break ankles and throw seemingly impossible passes would make most players puff their chests out, but that just isn’t how Nash is wired.

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  • Tim Tebow
    Tim Tebow

    In hindsight, the whole anti-Tim Tebow movement seems strange. Never has there been so much backlash against an athlete who never did anything wrong, never had a bad word to say about anybody, and enjoyed nothing but success on the field. The fact that he had a weird throwing motion and was an especially devout Christian seemed to rub people the wrong way, completely ignoring his accomplishments as a teammate and a true humanitarian off the field. While it seems his future is as an analyst rather than playing, there’s always a chance a desperate team will come calling.

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  • Kevin Durant
  • Tim Duncan
  • Drew Brees
  • Roger Federer
  • Derek Jeter
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Steve Nash
  • Tim Tebow

Finding a popular professional athlete who maintains his humility despite his fame is no easy task. And we can’t say we blame them; when you’re the best in the world at something, it’s hard not to want to tell people about it. But for a superstar like Kevin Durant, staying true to his roots is simply encoded in his DNA.

KD can’t help but deflect praise to his teammates even as he is winning scoring titles and collecting his MVP trophy, and that’s what makes him one of the most inspiring athletes of this generation. In honor of Durant and in celebration of his upcoming Nike KD7 “Calm Before the Storm” colorway dropping at Champs Sports this weekend, here’s a look at the definitive sports Humble Rankings among athletes of today.

Follow Doug on Twitter at @dcsibor