Celtics

Celtics

He didn't know it at the time, but Antoine Walker may have participated in the most talent-laden pickup games ever.

The former Boston Celtics star and Chicago native joined 670 The Score's "McNeil & Parkins Show" on Tuesday to share the great story about how he got roped into pickup games with Michael Jordan during the summer of 2001.

"He called me," Walker said. "And he was like, 'Hey, I'm thinking about making a comeback. I need you in the gym with me.' "

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Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1998 but indeed returned for the 2001-02 season to play for the Washington Wizards. So, prior to his return, Jordan recruited Walker and a number of other NBA stars including Michael Finley, Juwan Howard, Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette for a series of daily pickup runs.

Those runs also included LeBron James, then a 16-year-old high schooler from Akron, Ohio.

"We treated LeBron like a 16-year-old," Walker recalled.

James apparently recalled the same thing, revealing Monday in a video for UNINTERRUPTED that the group made him sit out for long stretches before finally letting him play.

James also remembers Walker and Jordan being fiercely competitive as captains for their respective squads.

"Him and Antoine Walker was just talking so much s--- back and forth, back and forth," James said.

"Very competitive," Walker said of he and Jordan's jawing. "All we talked about every day was winning. He used to give me so much stuff about not winning a championship."

 

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Walker only made the playoffs four times during his eight seasons in Boston, but he was in his prime during these pickup sessions: He averaged a career-high 23.4 points per game during the 2000-01 season and was an All-Star for Boston the next two seasons.

Walker also was a notoriously high-volume shooter -- which explains why he was never on Jordan's team during their pickup games.

"He likes to get less aggressive guys," Walker said. "Like, he'll take a Bobby Simmons, the guys that aren't really looking to score the basketball, so he can work on his game."

Those pickup games helped Jordan return for two more seasons with the Wizards -- and allowed Walker to share the court Jordan and James, arguably the two greatest NBA players ever.