Before I continue treating Antoine Walker like ESPN treats Brett Favre, just look at the Celtics’ headbands. They damn near cover their eyeballs. Then, if you really want to puke, check out Mark Blount.
Okay, now back to the task at hand — Brett Favre’ing Antoine Walker’s return to competitive basketball.
Why do I still write about Antoine Walker? Why don’t I hate him for, or at least be more disturbed by, his miserable shot selection or occasional unwillingness to rebound? When it comes to Antoine Walker, why do I still care?
The first reason is simple. Walker’s actions were often misguided, but his intentions were pure. This was a player who backed his teammates, who wanted desperately to win, who showed passion every time he stepped onto a basketball court. The Walker Wiggle wasn’t just an immature player celebrating his greatness for an entire crowd to see — it was the pure reaction of a player wholly engrossed in a game’s joy.
Walker never cared enough about certain things he should have, such as staying in shape or taking two-pointers. But though he didn’t go about improving the right way, basketball never seemed like a chore to him, or a job. As soon as he touched a Spalding ball, Walker became like a kid on a playground. Basketball was always a game to him, always something that brought him joy in a way few things could.
I never had a conversation with Walker; he never explained his love of basketball to me. I gathered all these opinions from watching him play, from observing all the nights he brought his shimmying excitement to the court. And yes, those were often the same nights he chucked far too many bad shots. Nobody ever said watching ‘Toine play basketball was a smooth ride. There were certainly times I wondered, “Why, Antoine? Why???” But even through all the frustration, seeing Antoine Walker play could also be a nice reminder that, to some NBA players, the game was more than just a paycheck.
I could now discuss why using “Antoine Walker” and “paycheck” in the same sentence brings up an interesting conversation, but, instead, on to my second reason for loving Walker.
When I was a young student, I was once forced to read a poem about age. I forget the name of the poem, and I forget the poet’s exact words, but I remember the premise. When I become 77 years old, I won’t just be shaped by my latest memories. I am not just a 77 year-old. Part of me, part of my memories, will always be five years old, riding a bicycle for the first time. Part of me will always be 14, stepping through my high school halls. Part of me will always be 22, graduating from college with a tight group of friends.
And part of me will forever be 11 years old, overlooking Antoine Walker’s obvious flaws because of his love for the game, his desire to win. No matter how many times Walker screwed up, he always meant well. For 11 year-old me, that was good enough.