‘You have to go through some shit’

DETROIT – Kevin Durant had just put in a stellar 43-point performance in a comeback win over the Detroit Pistons when he ran into someone many thought would follow in his footsteps over the years.

Emoni Bates.

The Eastern Michigan sophomore had recently finished a game himself, scoring 19 points in a 79-77 victory over Detroit Mercy, and was in the bowels of Little Caesars Arena waiting to talk to Durant.

Not only Durant but also Kyrie Irving gave Bates words of encouragement in a long hug before the Brooklyn Nets left Detroit on Sunday.

Bates was recently placed on 18 months’ probation after a gun was found in a vehicle he was driving in September. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge last week, and The Detroit News reported that the conviction will be expunged from his criminal record if he successfully completes his probation.

“I like that he’s going the complete opposite path in life,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. Dropping out of school, transferring from Memphis, arrested. Went through some s***. You have to go through some shit in this life to really understand where you are.

“He’s playing well at the moment. He’s been through some shit. He’s a bit more grounded.”

To be clear, Durant disagreed with Bates’ arrest. He only described the totality of Bates’ journey and how difficult it is – despite skills and origins – to move to the next level. Durant has followed basketball at all levels, so it was more than just encouragement from Bates; there seems to be a real investment in him.

Bates was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and won the 2020 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year, but he hasn’t kept his promise yet. He averages 18.9 points and 4.9 rebounds for Eastern Michigan, shooting 46% from the field and 39% from 3-point range.

A prep star from Ypsilanti, Michigan, Bates owned a smooth sweater and is tall and slim like Durant was when he got near Washington, DC. Durant resisted the urge to stay in the area for college and didn’t seriously consider the Washington Wizards while on free duty, but he thinks being home might be better for Bates.

Bates’ father, Elgin, was with him when Emoni posed for pictures with Durant and Irving.

“He’s home. He’s got a support system,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “It can be even worse when you’re away from home, and you don’t have that clout around you, and you’re running after some other dudes. It It’s good to see him bummed now.”

Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates shoots during a game on Nov. 11 in Detroit.  (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates shoots during a game on Nov. 11 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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