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Why 35? The story behind a jersey number and Kevin Durant's devotion to his coach

By Darnell Mayberry, Staff Writer, Modified: April 13, 2010 at 4:47 pm •  Published: March 24, 2010

photo - Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Durant went into a state of shock.

"I didn’t know what to think,” Durant said. "I thought it was a joke.”

Durant still isn’t clear on what exactly happened. As Durant heard it, Craig was outside an apartment complex shooting the breeze with friends when an altercation broke out. The chaos subsided, but hours later, gunfire rang out. Craig, dressed in a yellow shirt, was easily spotted and assumed to be a participant in the earlier dispute.

According to Prince George’s County Police Department records, officers responded to the 12600 block of Laurel-Bowie Road at approximately 3 a.m. at the sound of gunfire. Upon arrival, the police found the yellow-shirted victim in the parking lot. He was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead.

Charles Craig had been shot multiple times in the upper body, according to police records.

"He’s a person that died for no reason,” Durant said.

Records show that the PG County Police charged Terrell Bush, then a 24-year-old Laurel, Md., resident, with first-degree murder.

Nearly five years later, Durant’s No. 35 jersey that honors Craig has become the NBA’s 15th best selling jersey, ahead of fellow All-Stars Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and Deron Williams. More and more, fans in visiting cities attend Thunder games sporting Durant’s jersey. Every so often, Durant glances into the stands and becomes filled with joy at the sight.

"Without them knowing, they’ve got a piece of Chuck on,” Durant said.

The University of Texas last year retired Durant’s No. 35 jersey, hanging it in the rafters alongside only two other former Longhorns.

Durant even initiated a movement to get players from his hometown to honor Craig in the same fashion. His brother, Tony, wore No. 35 for Towson last season. Chris Braswell, a freshman at UNC-Charlotte, wears 35 for the same reason. Braswell’s official bio lists Craig as his deceased father, but Durant said Braswell was so close to Craig that the coach was "like his dad.” Dwight Bell, a junior at Shaw University in North Carolina, wore No. 35 at Gloucester County Community College in Sewell, N.J., before transferring to Shaw only to see the number already taken.

"It feels good to see a lot of 35s from the people I know,” Durant said. "It shows that every time we step between the lines, where he taught us how to be tough, how to go out there and play with passion and play with heart, even though he’s up there he’s living his dreams through us on the basketball court.”

In a day in age where stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James (who will wear No. 6 next season) change numbers primarily for marketing purposes, Durant proudly wears his No. 35 for the most genuine of reasons.

"If he would have died when he was 47 years old, I would have switched my number to 47,” Durant assured. "It’s all about doing it for somebody I love. It’s not about what’s the better number and what looks better on me. It’s all about him.

"He was just a caring and loving person that everybody would love to meet. Every time I step on that floor, I do it to win games and make him proud.”

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