Kemba Walker came home Thursday night — hugging ushers, blinking back tears, shooting raggedly and still beating his old team, the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets’ all-time leading scorer, Walker wore a Boston Celtics uniform this time. It was weird. It was like seeing your former spouse, now happily married to someone else but attending the same party, and both of you trying hard not to make the night any more awkward than it already was.
The Celtics removed some of the drama by pounding the Hornets, 108-87, whipping them thoroughly enough that Walker didn’t even have to play in the fourth quarter.
As for the Hornets, the best thing they did all night was a gorgeous, 101-second Kemba tribute video they put on the scoreboard just before the game started. It was a compilation of Walker’s greatest hits in Charlotte — the night he was drafted, his 60-point game, his work in the community, his various buzzer-beaters. It brought Walker to tears, and some people in the stands, too.
After that, it was mostly downhill for the home team.
Said Walker afterward: “Just to be back here and the amount of love I’ve been getting throughout this day — the video just topped it off, really. It obviously made me really emotional. I was trying to hold it in but I couldn’t.”
As for the standing ovation he received following the video, Walker said: “It was amazing. Just a great feeling, to know that they still have love for me — even though I left.”