Kemba Walker is the latest in a lineage of NBA All-Stars from New York City. But for reasons he can’t fully explain, players as successful as the Charlotte Hornets guard are becoming less frequent as time passes.
“It’s been a down period,” Walker told amNewYork, regarding the dwindling number of elite players from the Big Apple.
Hundreds of NBA veterans were born in the five boroughs, including dozens of All-Stars and Hall of Famers. Not all of these players grew in the city, however. Before Walker, a first-time All-Star this past season, the most recent NBA All-Star born and raised in the city was Metta World Peace in 2004.
But Walker is proud to be born and raised in Soundview, Bronx, and having played at Harlem’s Rice High School. The 2017 NBA Sportsmanship Award winner, who has helped refurbish the basketball court at the Sack-Wern Houses on which he grew up playing, attributes a changing amateur basketball landscape as a possible explanation for the relative lack of recent All-Stars native to the city.
“A lot of the players, they leave for prep schools now,” Walker said. “New York City basketball is so different now.”
But Walker hopes his ascent from NCAA champion at Connecticut to first-round pick and franchise player can be an inspiration for city kids with big hoop dreams.
“Hopefully, me doing what I’m doing in the league right now can kind of inspire young guys from New York to show that I’m living proof that, if I can do it, they can do it as well,” Walker said.
Listed at 6-1, Walker also takes pride in being an example of a shorter player succeeding in a tall man’s league.
“It’s never about your height,” Walker said. “It’s about your work ethic, your heart, things like that.”
Even in his youth in the Bronx, Walker admits he didn’t truly foresee his hoops journey taking him to the NBA.
“I was just playing basketball in my park, behind my building,” Walker said. “I always said I had dreams of playing in the NBA, but I didn’t really believe it at the time.
“But, I’m here now, so I’m excited.”