With only a few weeks in the books, we are still very much in the heart of tribute video season in the NBA. Notable players return to their former homes in new colors almost every night in the early portion of the season, and while some do so under less than friendly circumstances, others, like Kemba Walker, are welcomed back with open arms.
The Boston Celtics traveled to Charlotte for a Thursday night game that meant quite a bit to both Walker and the fans in his former city. He was greeted by a touching tribute video thanking him for his time with the Hornets.
Walker was clearly moved by the touching video.
The early emotions of the moment clearly got to Walker. He started the game by missing his first six shots. He ultimately got hot and finished 4-of-12 from the field, but the Celtics led throughout regardless of Walker’s performance, en route to a 108-87 (box score) win. That, in a nutshell, is what appealed to Walker about the Celtics. While his Hornets needed him to post big numbers to have much of a chance at winning, the Celtics have a much stronger roster capable of weathering the storm on off nights.
Even so, reports following last season indicated that Walker wanted to remain with the Hornets. A key deciding factor was money. Walker was eligible for a five-year deal worth more than $220 million thanks to being named a Third-Team All-NBA player. Rather than offer him that supermax, however, the Hornets offered less than even the regular max. When the Celtics swooped in with a four-year, maximum salary offer, Walker decided to move on.
But clearly, there are no hard feelings. Walker was the best player Charlotte has had since returning to the NBA as an expansion team in 2004 after the first iteration of the Hornets moved to New Orleans. He connected with the city, the fan base and the organization better than any other player in team history. He may no longer be a Hornet, but Walker will always be beloved in Charlotte for his time with the team. Moments like this prove it.