May 8, 2014 at 9:12 AM ET
It takes a strong a mother to stay positive for her children in the face of adversity, but that's exactly what Wanda Pratt, mom of NBA superstar Kevin Durant, did for her son.
In an impassioned speech now heard 'round the world, Durant thanked his mother for being the driving force behind his success. Pratt joined TODAY Thursday from Oklahoma City, and shared her advice to other parents, particularly single moms like herself.
"My advice is to never give up, to always put your children first, to always commit yourself to their dreams, their aspirations and their goals even when it gets hard,'' Pratt said. "When you have those lonely nights when you're crying to yourself, just remember that it's for them, and they will get that, they will receive that. I've realized that's what children really want. They want to know that their parents are 100 percent behind them, and they'll give you everything that you expect."
Before Kevin Durant was the NBA's Most Valuable Player, he was a frustrated freshman in high school who lived in a rough neighborhood and wanted to quit basketball.
Pratt would not let him quit. She leaned on him to stick with the sport and follow his dreams, which helped propel him into eventually becoming a star with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In an heartfelt acceptance speech for his first MVP award on Wednesday, Durant credited his mother as "the real MVP" in a touching tribute that has drawn an emotional response across the country only days before Mother's Day.
Durant, 25, complimented each of his Thunder teammates with personal stories and then dedicated the end of his 25-minute speech to praising his mother for everything she has done for him. Pratt raised Durant and his brother, Anthony, as a single mom in Washington, D.C., on a postal worker's salary.
"Single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old," Durant said while fighting through tears. "Everybody told us we weren't supposed to be here. We moved from apartment to apartment by ourselves. One of the best memories I had was when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture, and we just all sat in a room and just hugged each other. We thought we'd made it."
Durant said his mother was always there to keep him on track, despite tough times.
"You made us believe," Durant said in his speech. "Kept us off the street. Put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn't eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You're the real MVP."
Pratt, 46, was in the audience during the speech, dabbing her tears after her son's touching words. She has remained a constant presence in his life and often can be seen in the crowd at Oklahoma City games.
"I expected him to mention me, but I didn't know it would be to that magnitude,'' Pratt told TODAY. "That day I got over 150 texts from friends and family. I was just really overwhelmed. I was really surprised by all of it. It was just a pleasant surprise. He just really kind of messed me up with that one."
The newly-minted MVP followed that speech by proving why he won the award, finishing with 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a 112-101 win over the Los Angeles Clippers that evened their Western Conference semifinal series at 1-1 heading into Friday night's game three in Los Angeles. Durant was a runaway winner of his first MVP, receiving 119 of 125 possible first-place votes, with reigning MVP LeBron James finishing second in the voting with six first-place votes. Durant won the scoring title for the fourth time in five years, averaging 32.0 points, 7.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds to become the first player to win the scoring title and the MVP in 13 years.