top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #8: Antoine Walker

The Boston Celtics of the early 1990s were a hot mess. Larry, Kevin, and Robert were not walking through that door, and the untimely deaths of Lenny Bias and Reggie Lewis had left the franchise bereft of star power and mired in the lottery.

Enter Employee Number Eight.

Following his breakout sophomore season with the Kentucky Wildcats, Antoine Walker became the sixth pick in the NBA draft prior to his 20th birthday. He joined a woeful Celtics team and they didn’t get any better - actually, they regressed from 33 wins to only 15 as ML Carr and company tanked in their quixotic pursuit of Tim Duncan - but they became fun to watch.

There was a counterintuitive charisma to Walker’s game, an infuriating magnetism. He’d launch ill-considered three-pointers that would sometimes go in, he’d showboat and preen while the team trailed, and he whined to the officials like a star NFL wideout. And yet he was an undeniable talent, capable of a brilliant pass, a jaw-dropping offensive move in the paint, a lockdown defensive effort. The guy could play, and he had a kind of raw juvenile joy to his game that I enjoyed. When new coach Rick Pitino handed the kid the keys to the team, Walker became an all-star who could score, rebound, and dish the rock, all with a wiggle.

When Paul Pierce showed up in 1998, he and Walker formed a dynamic duo that would lead the Green back to the postseason and produce Walker’s signature moment in Boston. Having fought their improbable way to the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics trailed the New Jersey Nets by 21 entering the fourth quarter of Game 3. Walker and Pierce led an explosive comeback, outscoring NJ by 25 en route to the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA history.

‘Toine didn’t last long in Boston after that high point. He’d bounce around the league for a few years, getting a ring with Miami in 2006. He’d make news in retirement when it became apparent he’d managed to blow his entire $100+ million in career earnings and declared bankruptcy.

He was never the dominant force we thought he might become, and he never helped lead the Celtics to a banner, the only metric that matters with this franchise. But he was a bright spot in a dark time, and a reason to watch a team that wasn’t going anywhere. In those mid-90s when Boston sports were between eras of greatness, we took what we could get.

0 views0 comments


bottom of page