KEMBA WALKER – JUMPMAN
“I’ve been playing basketball in Jordans my whole life. To play for him…it’s crazy”. WORDS: REMBERT BROWNE IMAGES: @RAYSCORRUPTEDMIND
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Kemba Walker attach a pocket watch to a three-piece suit while wearing a baby blue durag.
I was sitting in his hotel room just hours before his second All-Star game appearance. And Walker, like everyone affiliated with the crazy week in Los Angeles, was tired. But to his credit, that fatigue did not translate into rudeness, he was just simply exhausted.
He spent about half an hour, shirtless, almost delaying the inevitable that was beginning his All-Star Sunday. On his bed sat a gorgeous gray suit, on the floor black dress shoes and scattered about the room, many, many Jordans. Everything looked vaguely my size and I wanted it all.
Having a room full of people watch you get dressed is more awkward than not — for all parties. But once he finally began to transform into his sharp pre-game attire, you could see and feel him come alive. And by the time the durag was off and those waves were flourishing, he was completely dialed in, both posing for photos and ready to go to work. And it made sense, Kemba was thrilled to be playing in this game, yet another opportunity to step foot on the biggest stages and remind the rest of us that he belongs in the top tier of players in this league.
Before he did that, however, he sat down with me, to talk all things Jordan — the man and the brand — as well as what it’s like to be an All-Star.
Browne: You know, it’s funny that the game is at the end. Because everyone’s so energetic in the beginning, but tired by the end. How’s the week been for you?
Walker: Good. Tiring. You do a lot during the week — with family and obligations with sponsors. But it’s good, gives me a chance to help my brand, get yourself out there. It’s a good tired. It’s a grind.
Browne: It’s better than being at home.
Walker: Yeah, this is what you want.
Browne: This, being your second All-Star game, do you feel like you better understand the pace?
Walker: Yeah, last time — I definitely wanted to do everything. So I slowed it down a bit this time. I knew what to expect. But granted, the city is completely different — New Orleans to LA. LA’s just… crazy busy. Traffic.
Browne: I’m an Atlanta guy and I’ve watched my All-Stars of the past often try and use the game to further put their name out there, playing like there’s especially something to prove. Being in Charlotte, do you feel that?
Walker: You know what, not really. I feel like, I’m an All-Star — I belong. But I do want to go out there and play well. That’s important for me, I don’t want people thinking it’s some fluke. I hope it’s a good game, I hope it’s competitive. Last year, I think it was real chill [laughs], so hopefully this year is different, get a chance to really get after it.
Browne: So what’s it like, being a Jordan athlete AND playing for Mike’s team? It seems like double pressure but also twice the opportunity to interact with him — no one else has that experience.
Walker: It’s a dream come true. I’ve been playing basketball in Jordans my whole life. When I first got to the league I wasn’t with them, but when I signed I was excited. Excited to be part of the brand. And to play for him… it’s crazy. That’s a crazy feeling. He’s the GOAT. He’s someone I’ve looked up to my whole life, like most people. He changed the game. So it’s just dope to be a part of the team and the brand.
Browne: Every person I’ve talked to, from fellow All-Stars to musicians and artists, anyone whose associated with Jordan still feels slight disbelief that it’s happening, like it’s still crazy.
Walker: It doesn’t get old. And especially for me, because we have such a good relationship. I get a chance to see him more than the other guys. So, it’s still crazy. I’m always around him.
Browne: Kind of off-topic, but in 2017 you were awarded the league’s Sportsmanship Award. That’s pretty cool, to be acknowledged, basically, as a good person.
Walker: Yeah, that was dope. Especially because it’s voted on by my peers. That’s what’s most important, that respect. So yeah, I was hype. I wasn’t expecting to win it, I didn’t even know I was up for it, so it was crazy.
Browne: Last question — what are your interactions with MJ like? Is he in your ear, giving you pointers? Talking trash?
Walker: Yeah, it’s some of everything. When I have streaks of not playing he’ll be like “what are you doing? Like, make a shot.” But then he’s also constantly helping me, with my leadership, he believes in me as a leader. So it’s unreal to have that kind of mentor, one that stays on top of me but keeps me focused in the right direction.