By Randolph Charlotin, Analyst
A personal story: On March 2, 2002, my cousin and I attended a Boston Celtics charity event held at the club/billiard hall The Rack. Fans were able to hang out, play pool and get their photo taken with the players.
Being photographed with Eric Williams, Rodney Rogers and Walter McCarty was cool, but I wanted a picture with Antoine Walker. I had to have it.
And Walker didn’t disappoint. After hours of saying hello to every fan who wanted a piece of him, the Celtics co-captain enthusiastically greeted us and put on a great smile for both photos.
The Celtics could use Walker as a part of the organization.
On Wednesday, Walker was honored by The Sports Museum in a ceremony called “The Tradition.” Walker was honored along with three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi, two-time World Series champion Tim Wakefield, Stanley Cup champion Patrice Bergeron, Olympic gold medalists Bode Miller and Kayla Harrison and longtime sports radio personality/pioneer Eddie Andelman.
Walker seems like a natural to represent the Celtics at public events. He’s a recognizable former player with a successful professional career that Boston could use to help keep the Celtics’ name in the community.
All Walker would have to do is show up at Celtics-sponsored events and interact with the fans: Say hello, shake hands, give high fives and pose for pictures. Sometimes he’ll read to kindergarten children. Elsewhere he’ll help build a playground. Next time out he’ll watch high school kids do school work at a newly donated computer lab.
Walker made similar appearances before as a player, so it would be nothing new to him. Based on what I’ve seen, Walker would be a great ambassador for the Celtics.
Walker had a fine career: an NCAA championship with the University of Kentucky, a three-time NBA All-star with the Celtics and a NBA championship with the Miami Heat.
But Walker’s embarrassing personal life gives the Celtics reason to think twice about whether they want Walker associated with the franchise. You heard the story: Walker made more than $110 million and ended up broke. He declared for bankruptcy in 2010.
Walker is getting his life in order. He’s now debt free, though he had to sell his 2006 championship ring in the process. And like former New England Patriot Tony Collins said in his book, Walker has turned his mess into a message.
Walker had his life turned into a documentary called, “Gone in an Instant.” It’s a cautionary story that details how Walker lost his wealth. Walker shared that same story when he spoke to incoming rookiesduring the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program. Walker is a living example to rookies to be careful now that many are instant millionaires.
Walker has expressed an interest in coaching, but that’s not going to happen with the Celtics right now (Boston doesn’t need someone telling Jared Sullinger to shoot more three-pointers). If Walker wants a job in the NBA, working for the Celtics’ community outreach might be the best way for him to get his foot in the door.
When he was a Celtic, Walker embraced being the captain. He was accommodating with the media, and I witnessed his gregariousness with fans back in 2002. During what likely will be another trying season for the team, Walker can be a public figure to keep the Celtics’ name on people’s mind.
JoJo White already fulfills this role for the Celtics as the director of special projects and community relations representative. He’s a legend in Celtics history. Walker would be a great complement because many of today’s fans watched Walker during his seven and a half seasons as a Celtic. Whether fans loved him or hated him, many fans know who Walker is, which can’t always be said about White.
Walker’s presence also could be a benefit to the players. There might not be a better person for young pros to talk to regarding trappings off the court. Walker can take his message straight to the Celtics’ young players.
The Celtics won’t retire Walker’s number. Boston won’t celebrate the 2001-2002 team that lost the Eastern Conference Championship to the New Jersey Nets with a reunion. Coaching will have to wait. But Boston could find a role for Walker. Employee No. 8 could use a job. Would the Celtics hire him?
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