SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Watching the NBA Finals from his home Monday night, San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman quickly went from happy for his friend Kevin Durant winning his first championship to daydreaming about getting his own.
"I did last night," Bowman said. "I pulled out my playbook. It made me want to go after winning my first ring even harder. It was the same thing with him making it to the NBA. Basketball, you only have to do a year in college, football you have got to do at least three. He motivated me to get to this point and he definitely motivated me last night."
Bowman and Durant's friendship goes back almost two decades. The pair grew up together in Prince George's County, Maryland and were opponents on the AAU circuit while still in grade school. They were then teammates at Drew Freeman Middle School. Although Bowman was an accomplished basketball player in his own right, their paths soon diverged with Bowman pursuing football and Durant chasing his hoop dreams.
Their shared pride in their home area and succeeding through difficult circumstances have kept them close. While both have long been considered among the best players in their respective sports, neither had reached the mountain top until Monday night.
Durant's scintillating performance earned him MVP honors and left Bowman with nothing but pride in what his friend had achieved.
"It’s just a great thing to see," Bowman said. "You watch the guy just get through what we’ve gotten through our entire life and to understand exactly where he came from, it just says how hard he’s worked. Nothing is given to anyone, especially on the side that we’ve come from. To see the joy in his mom’s eyes, I remember just going to their house and seeing his mom getting home from work and putting those hours and long times with her son."
Bowman also was sure to make his feelings clear on the criticism Durant received for joining the Golden State Warriors only about a month or so after they had defeated his Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2016 Western Conference Finals.
"That’s just nonsense," Bowman said. "I feel like that’s life. You always want to get better, go to the best situation possible to reach your ultimate goal. I feel like everyone does that throughout life. We’re athletes and the spotlight is on us. People that are talking like that just want something to talk about. That was an easy cop out. He did a great job of just ignoring it, trusting his choice and living up to what everyone said he better do. And he did it."
Bowman said he texted Durant after the game, telling Durant "You deserve it, congratulations to you and your family." Bowman hadn't heard back yet from Durant but that was to be expected because he knew Durant was out enjoying the spoils of the Warriors' triumph.
As for Bowman's pursuits of the NFL pinnacle, he and the Niners opened their mandatory full-squad minicamp on Tuesday and will wrap up the offseason program Thursday afternoon. Bowman is returning from a torn Achilles that cost him most of last season and the Niners look to have a major uphill climb to get to where the Warriors now stand.
But that doesn't seem to faze Bowman, who will continue to look to Durant for inspiration.
"One thing I know about him is he will never get complacent with it," Bowman said. "He will always try to keep getting better and go back after it and try to get another one."