Watching a healthy, NBA-caliber player practice shooting is truly a sight to behold. Without a defender, most pros, whether they are All-Stars or G-Leaguers, make hitting shots look as easy as walking down the street, pouring in bucket after bucket with little to no effort.
Such was the case for Kemba Walker before Boston’s February 23 game with Dallas, when the Celtics point guard was filmed burning up the nets (actually just one net) during a three-point drill.
The video of Walker, courtesy of Fanatics View, is not the usual high-flying, high-energy yoke-a-thon that comprises most highlight reels these days. But it is remarkable to see such long-range consistency. (Walker made his last 11 attempts.) Moreover, Walker showed no signs of fatigue or favoring his knee, which, along with his recent stellar play, signals that his troublesome left knee could finally be back to full strength.
Take the Good With the Bad
Back in September, to address debilitating soreness in his left knee, Walker underwent a treatment called Regenokine. Developed by Dr. Peter Wehling, a German spinal surgeon, and popularized by superstar athletes like Alex Rodriguez, golfer Fred Couples and Kobe Bryant, Regenokine attempts to reduce joint pain and inflammation by injecting proteins, or stem cells, from one part of the body directly into the affected joint.
The procedure was, according to Walker, a success. “It was the best way to go. It definitely calmed my knee down,” he told reporters in December. But the downside was, it forced the 10-year veteran to forgo training camp and miss Boston’s first 11 games. And when Walker did return, he didn’t exactly hit the ground running.
His first 10 games back, Walker shot 30.6% on 7.2 three-point attempts, and 34.2% on 15.2 attempts overall. He averaged 15 points a game and the team went 3-7. To be fair, the losses weren’t entirely inexplicable — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, among others, missed significant time due to injuries and COVID, and six of the seven losses came to teams over .500 — but Walker’s shaky play was undeniable.
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Since then, though, Boston is 7-3 in the games Walker has played, and his numbers have risen dramatically. The UConn product averaged 21.9 points over his second 10-game span and his shooting percentages, for both field goals and three-pointers, were almost double-digits better than his first 10 games. What was once an offensive rating of 107.3 is now 111.7.
The Greatest Shows on Earth
Walker’s recent target practice, while impressive, is nowhere near the most remarkable demonstrations of long-distance accuracy. At the front of the pack is Stephen Curry’s mind-boggling 105 straight triples following a Warriors practice last December. ESPN Sportscenter anchor Stan Verrett, after watching all 105 buckets, said it was “the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in sports.”
Then there’s the time, in 2007, when Washington Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson bet $20,000 on who could hit more 3-pointers out of 100 attempts. Arenas, who averaged far more three-point attempts in his career than Stevenson (5.6 to 2.0), agreed to shoot all his shots one-handed, while Stevenson was allowed to shoot normally. Amazingly, and much to Stevenson’s dismay, Arenas won by making 73 out of 100 shots. (Reminder: he was shooting with one hand!) Stevenson only — only — hit 68 out of 96.
Though Arenas won the bet, the kind of relentless trash-talking he displayed in the video — and was known for throughout his career — would eventually result in an ugly scene a couple of years later. In December 2009, two days after a heated game of Booray on the team plane, Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton pulled guns on each other in the Washington locker room. No shots were fired, but both players were eventually suspended for the remainder of the season. In 2011, two years after the locker room incident, Crittenton, who hadn’t played a professional game in America since 2009, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for accidentally killing a mother of four during a drive-by shooting.
And of course Boston fans of a certain age will never forget Larry Bird’s winning performance in the 1988 Three-Point Shootout. After a slow start, Bird hit eight of his final 10 shots and finished things off with a Babe Ruth-esque victory point as the deciding ball was still in the air.