HOUSTON -- The 49ers' moment in the national spotlight passed earlier this month, but a pair of former teammates are bringing it back this NBA All-Star weekend in Houston. James Harden and Kevin Durant are proud members of the 49ers Faithful.
Durant, the NBA's scoring leader the past three seasons, admits he is largely a fan due to his lasting friendship with 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The two first met at the tender age of eight in Maryland.
"We played on the same middle school basketball team," Durant said, "and, surprisingly, he was the best player on the team. I was kinda like his sidekick. I really thought he was going to the NBA, but he didn't grow."
Durant did, but the 6-foot-9 NBA star is still confident in his 6-foot friend. Could Bowman hold his own at All-Star weekend?
"Of course," Durant answered. "He still got his skills. He still plays in the summer times when he goes home."
Durant is plenty familiar with the feelings Bowman is currently dealing with. The 49ers lost the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens just as Durant and the Thunder lost last year's NBA Finals to the Heat.
"I wanted him to win the Super Bowl," Durant said. "Unfortunately he didn't and I've been there before, losing at the top. One thing I told him is to keep working. He's motivation to me, and hopefully he gets back."
Durant is well on his way, as the Thunder own the second best record in the NBA, even without Harden, now a member of the All-Star hosting Rockets.
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Harden, the player Durant says he's most looking forward to playing with on the Western Conference All-Star team, is even more rooted in his 49ers fandom. While Durant's loyalty lies more with Bowman and friend Vernon Davis, Harden's Red and Gold roots run deeper.
"I went to the Super Bowl," Harden said Saturday, "with my gold 49ers jacket on."
Bowman confirmed his hoops roots in an interview with Slam.
"That’s where I earned my nickname, Big Game Bowman," said the linebacker, describing a big AAU matchup in which he got the better of Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo.
Durant has mixed sports as well, participating in an intramural flag football game during the NBA lockout last year. In the Slam interview, Bowman said Durant could have a future with the pigskin.
"If he put some meat on his bones! He’s tall, can run a little bit, I’m sure someone would put him outside and throw him a jumpball like they do to Calvin Johnson."
Watch the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night and you'll see plenty of jumpballs thrown Durant's way. Maybe not as many for Harden, but he's ready to shut the light's off if things are going the West's way. Following the Superdome's Super Bowl power outage, the 49ers came storming back to within five yards of a championship.
"We just didn't have enough to get it over the hump," Harden said. "We'll definitely win it next year."