During his NBA career, Antoine Walker was the total package.
A three-time NBA All-Star, Walker was the Boston Celtics’ sixth overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft out of the University of Kentucky.
At 6’9, Walker was no traditional power forward. In fact, the NBA Champion was more of a point guard who had a knack for taking open 3-pointers.
Was he afraid of the post?
“Well, I was one of those kids that was tall for his age,” Walker told me on the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show.
“So, when I was in high school, I was probably – I think my best way to make it professionally was to be at the point guard position. So Magic Johnson was my favorite player.”
A member of the NBA’s All-Rookie team in 1997, Walker averaged 17.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his career with the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and in two stops with the Celtics.
Walker’s talent really shined in the eyes of many when the Celtics paired him with Paul Pierce.
The duo of Pierce and Walker blossomed during the 2001-02 season when the Jim O’Brien team boasted a 49-33 record and made their first NBA Playoffs appearance in seven years. Walker’s stat sheet was amazing 22.0 points and 5 assists per contest.
The Celtics made it all the way to the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals, but would eventually lose in six games to a talented New Jersey Nets team that was guided by Byron Scott and featured Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Keith Van Horn and Richard Jefferson.
Walker is currently an analyst on FS1 and on a recent episode of the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show, Walker marveled at Magic Johnson‘s ability.
“Magic was a 6’9” point guard,” he said.
“So I was like: ‘Man, this is the best way for me to go.’ So when I was picking schools recruiting, my junior year going into my senior year at camp and you know; I played point guard that whole summer at camp and AAU basketball and stuff like that so, that’s where I kind of started thinking that this would best way for me to go pro. To make to the pros, you have to be a point guard and Magic was my favorite player so that’s where all of that started from. Never really thought of myself as a power forward at all.”
An NCAA Champion with the University of Kentucky, Walker averaged 11.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 69 games for the Wildcats under head coach, Rick Pitino. “Was I scared of the post,” said Walker.
“No. When I got with Coach Pitino in college, he started to make me post up a lot more; I think when people look at my highlights, you’ll see I’ll do a lot of work from the post. And even as a pro…my biggest problem was I had a great post-up game. My problem was – if I had a deficiency in game, it was that I didn’t have an in-between game. I didn’t have the 15-footer. That was probably one of my biggest weaknesses. I was either trying to get all the way to the basket or I was shooting a three. I wasn’t pulling up. I didn’t have that Kevin Garnett 15-footer. That automatic Tim Duncan off the glass. So that was probably my biggest weakness. So, I loved the post up. I scored a ton in the post. That’s where people get it misconstrued because at the time, you gotta think; now it’s easy because now obviously the game has completely changed. But, you gotta remember back then, it was really no big guy shooting threes at the volume that I was shooting. You get a guy occasionally shooting the three and something like that but, I was shooting 7-8 a game! Sometimes ten a game. You didn’t get that at most times. I think that’s what really caught people off guard whereas now, it’s customary.”
Walker flourished from downtown during the lockout shortened 1998-99 NBA season under head coach, Rick Pitino.
Walker shot 36.9% from beyond the arc while averaging 18.9 points per contest. He thinks the game back then is different today. “You watch the Houston Rockets play and they shot 55 threes,” he said.
“So it’s different now and so I think you get lost in the rinse. I was a volume 3-point shooter. I wasn’t a great 3-point shooter, but I can make enough. I make BIG ones. See that’s what it is. When you make big ones, that’s when people think, “Oh ok.” Yeah. I can make big ones. I was never one of those three point shooters that sit and be like Steph Curry shooting threes. Naw, that’s not what I do. I can make big threes and my three was used as a weapon to outdo another big guy. To make him respect me and come out and guard me. But I loved to post up. It was one of the easiest ways for me to score. When I got to the pros, I changed it up a little bit. Like I said, when Coach Pitino moved me to the power forward, that was one of the advantages that I had to being able to step out and hit shots.”