Walker the Perfect Representative for Charlotte at All-Star Game and Weekend
By Matt Rochinski
The Queen City should be proud of its king.
Kemba Walker’s incredible weekend wrapped up in Charlotte at Spectrum Center on Sunday in the 68th Annual NBA All-Star Game. After a weekend filled with numerous appearances in and around the city as both a Hornets and Charlotte ambassador and as a participant in the AT&T Three-Point Contest, Walker could not have been more proud to represent his team and the city he calls home as a starter on Team Giannis when things tipped off on TNT.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” Walker said of the All-Star Game. “I think Charlotte was happy with how the game went. I thought it was pretty competitive. It was just a great weekend and the guys put on a show. I’m happy that Charlotte was able to witness this. It was a great time.”
While Walker admitted the nerves were there on Saturday when he participated in the three-point contest, he was much more relaxed when he was announced as a starter, but he admitted it “kind of gave me goosebumps” when he heard the response from the hometown crowd.
“I was pretty calm and pretty relaxed, but a big shout out to the fans here in Charlotte,” Walker said. “They showed me a lot of love and I really appreciate that.”
Walker also drew the praise of some of the NBA’s elite, as LeBron James and Steph Curry both commented on Walker’s impact and importance to the Hornets and the city of Charlotte following the game.
“That’s incredible to be able to have your first All-Star start in your home building. It doesn’t happen like that a lot and for that to be today for Kemba was great,” said James. “He’s the all-time leader in points (in Charlotte history) for a reason. He’s made this franchise relevant because of his maturation process and the way he’s continued to get better each and every year. It’s just great to see what he’s been able to do year after year after year and continue to get better and better and better with his game and also with his leadership.”
Steph Curry, who grew up embedded in the Hornets culture thanks to his father and all-time Hornets great, Dell Curry, also took notice of just how much of an impact Walker has made.
“There’s a lot of history here from a basketball perspective, and i felt that everywhere I went celebrating my dad, Muggsy (Bogues), Alonzo Mourning, Glen Rice, Larry Johnson, Kendall Gill - all those guys that suited up for the Hornets,” Steph Curry said. “Kemba is breaking all these records and its unbelievable to see how he’s, one, established himself as a premier NBA player, but to do it here in Charlotte and get the city behind him and give them something to root for, I think it’s truly special and something I respect so much from his standpoint. Hopefully he stays here for a long time, who knows how that will work out, but the way this weekend came together with the ‘older’ (Hornets) guys and the new regime with Kemba all celebrating what it means to be a Hornet - that was pretty special.”
Walker finished with four points on 2-of-8 shooting on what had to have been some exhausted legs after a weekend of representing the city. Although his shot wasn’t falling, he still found a way to get others involved, dishing out a game-high eight assists to go with one steal and one rebound.
“I was just trying to play the game the right way,” Walker said. “Whenever I had open shots I was trying to take them but they didn’t fall. I was just making plays and really having fun. That’s what its all about - really enjoying myself. Everyone is here for a reason and I had a great time.”
Still, the competitor in Walker admitted it was tough to see Team Giannis lose a 20-point lead in the 178-164 loss to Team LeBron.
“It stings a little because we were up pretty big, but you know how it goes in this league, especially with a team full of All-Stars,” he said. “Twenty points is absolutely nothing and they showed it. But like I said, I think everyone had an outstanding time.”
And in the end, the city of Charlotte helped make this Walker’s most memorable of his three-straight All-Star appearances.
“This might be the top, just cause it was here in Charlotte,” he smiled. “The love and support that I got as an individual and the love and support that everyone got as a whole, I thought it was amazing.”