BOSTON -- Game No. 82 of the Charlotte Hornets’ schedule wasn’t the first season finale Andrea Walker had attended during her son Kemba’s time in Charlotte.
But she’s a mother and mothers intuitively know things that they don’t even realize they know, which might help explain the tears that formed in her eyes after the final game against Orlando.
“I had no idea that we weren’t going back but …,” Andrea Walker, Kemba’s mom, told NBC Sports. “Being as though I knew that was the end of his contract there and I literally cried … that’s been our home. The people there are so nice. Just enjoy, just being around them; the biggest Charlotte fan. But, I have to get a new fanbase now.”’
While there was some level of disappointment that Walker wasn’t going back, his mom said she was OK with the decision by the 29-year-old Walker, the youngest of her three children.
“I wanted him to make this decision,” she said. “I always give my kids room to grow, and to express themselves. I really wanted him to make this decision on his own. Wherever you go, I’m happy for you.”
And by all indications, Walker is extremely happy with his decision in signing a four-year, $141 million contract with the Celtics.
“For me, they’ve been winning for years. You see all the banners,” Walker said of the Celtics. “As a pro, I haven’t won consistently. I just want to get a taste of that.”
For his mom, seeing the Hornets fail to do nothing more than just get to the playoffs twice during Kemba's eight seasons in Charlotte, was a tough pill for Walker and his family to swallow.
She recalls his rookie season in 2011 when the schedule was shortened due to the playoffs lockout.
“That rookie year, we only won seven (games out of 66 played),” she recalled. “The following year it got a little better. As time goes it got a little better, but him not having the right core around him ... it’s just so hard to see him play hard every night and there’s nothing for it.”
When you see Walker on the floor or in a media scrum, the 6-foot all-NBA guard is chatty and jovial with his responses.
But his mother will tell you, the consistent losing was becoming tougher and tougher for him to deal with.
While visibly more disappointed behind the scenes with family and friends, Walker refused to point fingers or blame anyone or group of people for the team's struggles.
So a chance to start anew with an organization that has won at a much higher level consistently, was indeed too good a situation for Walker to walk away from.
Which makes the move to Boston for Walker a bittersweet one with next season being his first playing with a franchise other than the Charlotte Hornets, who drafted him with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft — eight spots after former Duke star Kyrie Irving, who is also the man Walker will be replacing in Boston’s starting lineup.
The love that Walker has for the Charlotte fan base, the city and — yes, even the team still, is undeniable.
Shortly after Walker’s signing with Boston became official, principal Hornets owner Michael Jordan crafted a letter thanking Walker for his time with the franchise.
“On behalf of the entire Hornets organization, I want to thank Kemba for eight incredible seasons with our franchise,” Jordan’s statement read. “He always represented the Hornets, the NBA and the city of Charlotte with class — both on the court and in the community — and we are disappointed he is leaving. He’s a special player, with tremendous heart and tireless work ethic. Kemba is truly one of the best to ever play for our team. We wish him and his family all the best in the future.”
When it became clear that Charlotte wasn’t going to come anywhere close to giving him anything in the neighborhood of to the $220 million super-max contract he was eligible for, Walker gave serious thought to what his options were.
In came Boston which, according to Danny Ainge, made signing Kemba Walker a priority this offseason after sensing that Irving was going to sign with another team.
“As we started planning for Plan A, our plan A was Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter,” said Ainge.
But that plan needed a little bit of help from the Hornets, who gladly obliged by remaining in their always cost-conscious world, which paved the way for the Celtics to swoop in with a sign-and-trade that eventually sent Terry Rozier to Charlotte for Walker, with each team swapping second-round picks in the future.
And so here is Andrea Walker, who still lives in Charlotte and plans to still go to games even though her son Kemba, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, is not on the team anymore.
So for the foreseeable future, she will split time between Boston and her home in Charlotte, N.C., looking to lock in on a new fan base that’s just as into the games as she is.
And who knows, maybe Walker will rekindle some of that success he had at UConn and someday deliver an NBA title to Boston, which could result in more waterworks for Momma Walker.
Save those tears of joy for another time, another place.
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