Kevin Durant narrates #SCFeatured story about iconic Oklahoma tornado photo

Child inspired producer to ask Durant to lend voice to feature

Within a day of the tragic Moore, Okla., tornado last year, Kevin Durant pledged to donate $1 million to relief efforts. Producer Scott Harves said an anecdote relayed by Hezekiah Darbon’s teacher spawned the idea of Durant narrating the feature.

“As the children waited to be rescued from their classroom that had been destroyed by the tornado, one of the kids said something about Kevin Durant to her,” Harves said, “and it just made me realize that he would be a great person to have involved in the piece.”

Harves put together a rough draft and sent it to the Thunder to watch and then pitch to Durant.

“He was all for it,” Harves said. “Kevin is one of those athletes who would rather not do TV or PR pieces about himself. He’d much rather it be about the team. But I think he realized this really wasn’t about him. It was a story about this photo.”

On Sunday, May 18, ESPN’s Outside the Lines (9 a.m. ET) and SportsCenter (10 a.m.) will air an “#SCFeatured” story about an iconic photo that was seen around the world one year ago. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, recently named NBA MVP, narrates the piece (see video trailer below).

The photo, taken by Paul Hellstern of the Daily Oklahoman newspaper, shows a man, Jim Routon, and a child, Hezekiah Darbon, embracing amid the devastation of the May 20, 2013, tornado that ravaged Moore, Okla. Routon, Hezekiah’s neighbor and friend, was hugging the child after Hezekiah emerged from his elementary school that had been hit by the EF-5 tornado.

“After we learned the back stories of the two people involved in the photo, we just thought it might be a unique way to tell a story about a tragic event – a different take on a survivor story,” said Scott Harves, producer of the piece for ESPN’s Features Unit. “We learned that they were neighbors whose families had bonded over their love of football.”

Harves said that Hezekiah’s family, which moved from Louisiana, loves LSU football, while Routon, a native Oklahoman, prefers the Oklahoma Sooners.

“There’s probably more trash talking between Hezekiah’s dad and Jim than anything, and Jim is now trying to convert Hezekiah into an Oklahoma fan as well,” Harves said. “We also learned that each family has stories involving tragedies in their past, so it was almost fate that Jim was there to help out Hezekiah in that situation.”

“To me, it’s a story of friendship, and one of the greatest examples of getting to know your neighbor and the kind of people who would do anything for each other.” – Scott Harves on #SCFeatured piece

Hellstern, who has covered many tornadoes during his career, also is a central part of the feature. In addition to his photo upon which the feature is based, the piece includes video Hellstern shot that day.

“As the photographer who took the picture, he’s the one who puts us there, not only his photos but his video,” Harves said. “He happened to be in that place at that time.”

For Harves, the parent of two children, the piece hits home.

“If you can’t be there when your children need you most, it’s nice to know you have a neighbor you can count on because that’s really what it was about,” he said. “To me, it’s a story of friendship, and one of the greatest examples of getting to know your neighbor and the kind of people who would do anything for each other.”

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  • Chris MD R

    Crazy that it has already been a year since this tornado came through my town. I haven’t ever expressed much emotion from it. I was eager to make sure my family was safe. I walked 7 miles to check on my nephew and sister. Not once have I teared up, but watching this trailer hit me. I haven’t watched much of anything about that day or the tornado, come to think about it. I’m sure KD won’t see this, but if he does, I hope he knows how much Oklahoma, and especially Moore, love and appreciate his generosity and compassion he showed us last summer. Thank You.

  • emblakley

    I just watched it for the 2nd time and I have tears again. Great story ESPN!!

  • William Williams

    Chris MD R; hope your sister and nephew are okay. Our thoughts and prayers were with all effected by this tragedy. There were many hero’s on that day.

  • Chris Hershman

    Incredible story!