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Kevin Durant’s No. 35 is more than just a jersey number

For some, a jersey number is a lucky number, a favorite number, or one an idol wore when they were growing up — for Kevin Durant, the No. 35 on his chest and back represents the one person that kickstarted his career and his love for the game of basketball.

Durant was only eight years old when he met his soon-to-be-mentor, Charles “Chucky” Craig at Seat Pleasant Rec Center in Maryland, who was then a 27-year-old AAU coach back in the day, according to a detailed piece by John Branch of The New York Times.

The two became inseparable, sharing the same spirit when it came to life and basketball.

From an early age, Craig believed in Durant’s abilities, and eventually saw his growth from a scrawny kid eager to play to a talented, hard-working high school player turning heads across the nation.

Craig was 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds when he was found dead near his car, when a shirtless man shot him four times at point-blank range outside of a local bar at 2:40 a.m.

The then-16-year-old Durant mourned his loss the only way he knew how, by honoring him and wearing his age in every jersey he put on from that moment forward, No. 35.

“If he would have died when he was 47 years old, I would have switched my number to 47,” Durant told The Oklahoman in 2010. “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.”

Craig’s death was just another statistic in a fairly crime-filled neighborhood, one that Durant has silently honored since his mentor’s death.

Kevin Durant started wearing the number his first year at the University of Texas, ritual which he’s kept throughout his 10-year NBA career.