Success, sometimes, can be life’s toughest pill to swallow. For Kevin Durant, a talent whose upside could one day become all-time great, each crowning achievement resides with the knowledge a life lost is the exact inspiration for his career’s ever-evolving legacy. Yesterday, while driving back home in time to catch the Eastern Conference finals, iPhone’s WatchESPN app allowed me to stream the pre-game show stuck in traffic. The feature of Durant and his first coach Charles Craig – affectionally known as “Chuck” – was aired some 30 minutes prior to tipoff and was more moving than probably anyone could have imagined.
From the narrative, Craig was the first person to truly believe Durant had the potential to one day play pro ball. It was this confidence, their mutual overall love for the game of basketball and their bond off the court that created a big brother-like relationship. During Kevin’s junior year at Oak Hill, however, “Chuck” was murdered while attempting to break up a fight in Maryland. At the time of his passing, Craig was 35 years old; a number Kevin would later pay homage via his jersey number.
Without ruining too much, the clip allows for a deeper understanding and respect for one of sports’ most likable personalities. Interestingly enough, a feature on Russell Westbrook aired last week detailing how his success on the court revolves around his desire to play in the honor of his best friend and high school basketball teammate who died of an enlarged heart. Backstories like these provide a different layer to basketball. Sure, they’re paid more than you and I will ever see in our lifetimes. On occasion though, it’s warming to believe these world class athletes play to a high level for a cause bigger than just themselves or an endorsement. For Kevin, Charles Craig is that cause.
Scoring titles, NBA championships and an eventual Hall Of Fame bid won’t bring “Chuck” back. None of the successes any of us reach will resurrect someone we felt left Earth before their time. Knowing they’re smiling down saying “that’s my boy/girl”? Well, that’s enough to wake up and try every morning.
Bonus: Speaking of Durant, remember the summer of 2011 when he made playgrounds and gyms across the country his own personal demolition derby? Given 25 minutes is clear on the schedule, click play to witness how it all came together.