If I could make a career in the D-League starting tomorrow, I’d consider myself the luckiest person in the world. Long bus rides? A meager pay check? Less-than-five-star hotels? Who cares. If I could play basketball for a living, no matter how much or little money I made doing it, my face would permanently look like Kendrick Perkins’ scowl — except the exact opposite. I’d be living a dream I had when I was little (a dream I admittedly gave up a long time ago).
But for Antoine Walker, a return to the D-League isn’t so exciting. Walker accomplished his own dreams a long time ago, and his dreams were far grander than mine. He earned more than a hundred million dollars. He made All-Star games. He won an NBA championship. And then he lost everything — his job, his money, and also (in the eyes of some people) a fair deal of his respect. As such, Walker’s trip to the D-League isn’t the culmination of his childhood dreams — it’s one last-ditch attempt to regain some of what he’s lost. (CSNNE)
“It’d mean the world for me right now to get back, because it’s what I love to do,” said Walker. “I think I still have a lot of basketball left to play. I think I can still be competitive. I think, if I get [with] the right team, I can still win championships. It’s just that I left the game not on my own merit . . .
“If a GM [says] to my face, ‘Antoine, you can’t play at this level [anymore],’ then it’s time to do something else. But until I’m told that, I’m going to continue to try to fight and get there. But I’m not going to chase it; if it’s not there, it’s not there. But I’m going to work and give myself every opportunity to get back.”
For now, Walker lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Boise, Idaho. His most well-known teammate is Luke Jackson, he of the 37 career NBA games and 28.5% career NBA field goal shooting. His career rewind is like if I got a job with ESPN.com and became famous (fat chance), then — 12 years later — ended up back in my parents’ basement, blogging and freelance writing for pennies.
As I said, at this stage of my life, playing in the D-League would be ideal. (Never mind that I couldn’t even earn playing time for my Division Three school, or that I’m a point guard with Desagana Diop’s perimeter skills.) But for Antoine Walker, it’s just another humbling step to his ultimate goal, reaching the NBA — an ultimate goal that, I must say, may never be realized.