ESPN’s annual pre-season Top 100 NBA Players list always promises to cause a stir and 2020 was no different.
But when Boston Celtics fans saw their All-Star point guard Kemba Walker fall from under top-20 to nearly outside of the league’s top-50 plateau; it was enough to gripe about. In contrast, he was slotted at No. 17 just before the start of 2019-20.
Kemba Walker On Being Ranked No. 48 On ESPN’s Top 100 Players: ‘I’ve Been The Underdog My Whole Entire Life’
“Honestly, I’ve been the underdog my whole entire life. A ranking; that means absolutely no–,” Walker hesitated while smiling towards Forsberg. “I’m sure the guy who ranking, actually I’m not going to go there. But, no I could care less. It doesn’t matter.”
Clearly, Walker’s somewhat underwhelming performance towards the end of the regular season and throughout the playoffs coupled with an ankle injury that will keep him sidelined for the foreseeable future has cast significant doubt that Kemba will still be able to play at a high level. Some don’t believe he’ll be the same player he was throughout his first months in Boston.
“Which is fine,” Walker said. “Which is fine, if they forgot about me I’ll take it like that, if they forgot about me, I’m cool with that. I’m going to work hard, you know? I’m going to get healthy and I’m just going to come back stronger. All you can do is prove people wrong. It don’t really matter what kind of stuff they put out there.”
Kemba Walker Eager To Guide Boston Celtics To Another Eastern Conference Finals: ‘I Want That Feeling Again’
At this point, Walker’s only focus is to rejoin his teammates and to return to competing at a high level. Kemba talked about how playing alongside his Celtics teammates for three months in an isolated bubble is what kept his spirits high throughout all of the painful lows his injured left knee was putting him through.
He says the Celtics’ 2020 run to the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat – his career’s first deep playoff run – lifted his spirits even though his body was hampered by an injured knee.
“You know what? Being able to get out of the first round and then get out of the second round, to play in the Eastern Conference finals; is what actually helped me with my frustration,” Walker said. “Being able to play at a high level and make it far in the playoffs with a group of guys that I honestly love being around – that’s what kept me going; kept me motivated and wanting to play and wanting to be out there even though I’m not 100%. I want to be out there for my teammates doing what I can to try to help this team win.
“I had a blast, to answer your question. I had such a great time; playing in the playoffs with my guys – that’s why. I want to have that feeling again. I want to be healthy. I want to be better for these guys.”