Last night the San Antonio Spurs handed the Oklahoma City Thunder a 120-111 loss to go up 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder fell short in Game 2 despite another tremendous individual performance Kevin Durant. Durant put up 31 pts, going 10-17 from the floor (.588); he also added 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. KD put up jaw-dropping stats in 2012 (28.0 PPG/8.0 RPG/.496 FG%), and given his continual dominance, it seems like an appropriate time to highlight the story behind the number worn by one of the NBA’s premier players.
Charles “Big Chucky” Craig was KD’s first AAU basketball coach and an important childhood mentor. Craig was 35 years old when he died in 2005 after suffering multiple gunshot wounds in an alleged case of mistaken identity. To honor his fallen coach, Durant started wearing No. 35 during his freshman season at the University of Texas. By wearing 35 on his back, Durant hopes to keep the memory of Big Chucky alive. ”I just want as many people as I can to know why I wear it and the significance of the number,” Durant told NewsOK.com.
Durant first met Craig in suburban Washington D.C. when he was 8 years old, a newcomer to the game of basketball. In addition to teaching KD the ins and outs of the game, Craig bonded with the future NBA star off the court, quickly becoming a father figure in Kevin’s life. Kevin’s real father left the family before Kevin’s first birthday and didn’t come back into his life until Kevin was around 13 years old.
Former players and their parents describe Craig as a positive leader who “made every child feel like a star.”1 Craig went above and beyond to care for his players, even pitching in his own money to help kids who couldn’t afford the costs of jerseys. “He was just a caring and loving person that everybody would love to meet,” Durant says of Craig. “Every time I step on that floor, I do it to win games and make him proud.” 2
In 2009, Durant’s No. 35 was retired by Texas and now hangs in the rafters of the Longhorns’ arena. KD’s jersey was also the NBA’s 8th best selling jersey in 2012. To this day, it comforts Durant to see fans wearing his No. 35 jersey; as KD puts it, “without [the fans] knowing, they’ve got a piece of Chuck on.” 3
ESPN recently interviewed Durant about Big Chucky and his choice to wear No. 35:
CoachUp hopes to connect athletes with knowledgeable, caring coaches like Big Chucky. Athletes, what impact has your coach had on you?
1,2,3 Mayberry, “Why 35? The story behind a jersey number and Kevin Durant’s devotion to his coach.” NewsOK.com, 24 March 2010.