This was an extremely tough decision, and I hope people on both sides will take that the right way.
I owe Charlotte everything, man. Everything.
I’m not the biggest guy, not the loudest guy, not the flashiest guy. So I’ve had doubters my whole life. And back on Draft Night, in 2011, it wasn’t any different. I heard every whisper: Yeah, he was nice in college….. but you’re about to make him a lottery pick?? You hear enough talk like that, and it’ll get to you. Charlotte, though, and the Hornets organization — they made sure it never got to me.
And the way they made sure is that, after I got picked at No. 9, I had this heart-to-heart talk with the team owner.
But not just any team owner.
He called me up….. and of course I recognized his voice instantly. (I remember thinking, even in that moment, you know, like — Damn. It’s MIKE.) And real calm, real cool, he just said, “Kemba, we believe in you. I want you to know that. We believe in you, and we expect great things.”
To some people, that probably sounds like any old pep talk. But what you have to understand is — it’s like I said: It’s MIKE. It’s Air Jordan! It’s the greatest, period. And you have the greatest, period, not just drafting you with this high pick….. but then also talking about how he expects greatness out of you?
Man, I’m not exaggerating when I say that those words from MJ changed my life.
Todd Sumlin/The Charlotte Observer/AP Images
And then it wasn’t even just MJ. From day one, for real — the entire Hornets organization, they believed in me. The entire city of Charlotte believed in me. The entire state.
I think because the Hornets are a younger franchise in this league, people get the idea that their fans are maybe more of the casual type. But if you’ve spent any time in Carolina, you know that isn’t the case at all. Hoops culture — it runs deep in that area. They understand it and they respect it. So a place like that….. when they take you in as one of their own? And they believe in you, and they always have your back, no matter what? That means everything.
And I just wanted to say thank you to them.
Thank you for letting me be a member of this COMMUNITY.
Thank you to people like Elizabeth and Mike Peeler. And if you don’t know — they’re this older couple who are Hornets superfans, and they go to almost every home game. I met them during my rookie year, and we got to talking….. and pretty soon we became good friends, and we’d talk at games all the time. It even turned into this cool tradition where they would have me over for dinner once a year. Mrs. Peeler’s homemade brownies….. I’ll be missing those for sure.
I have to give a special shout-out to my four mentees: Jaliyah, Miles, Caleb and Devyn. They’re my heroes, man. And they mean the world to me. That’s not going to change with me leaving, by the way — I’m their mentor for life, and we’ll keep in great touch. But I still want to thank them, because they’ve been such a huge part of my feeling like I belong in this city. From our trips to Dave & Buster’s, to going school-supply shopping, to even just chopping it up about life. If I’m hanging with them, it’s putting a smile on my face. And while I won’t embarrass them here by bragging too much about their report cards….. let me put it on the record that I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished.
Kemba Walker (2)
Thank you to my teammates aka my brothers. To Biz, who I started this NBA journey with, it’s been a pleasure growing up with you. To Marv, who I will always look up to, thanks for all the late-night talks. To MKG….. your family became my family. To JLamb, wow — we went from boys to men. You already know how we rock! To Cody, thank you for getting me open time after time without ever complaining for the ball. You’re a real one! To Frank, thanks for all of the laughs. To Nic, thanks for always just being you. To Billy, thanks for bringing your positive attitude every single day of the week. To Bake, Devonte, Miles and Malik, thank you for allowing me to become your big brother! And to TP, the legend….. thank you for teaching me to look at the game in a whole new light.
Thank you to my former teammates who showed me the way: Big Al, Gerald Henderson, Sagana Diop, D.J. Augustin, Ben Gordon, Derrick Brown, Chris Douglas Roberts (CDR), Troy Daniels, Reggie Williams, Corey Higgins, Matt Carroll, Brendan Haywood, Jason Maxiell, Jannero Pargo, Ramon Sessions, Courtney Lee, Gary Neal, Corey Maggette, Jeff Adrien, Tyrus Thomas, Boris Diaw….. the list goes on.
Thank you, once again, to Mike. The GOAT in every sense.
And then lastly….. I just want to address the entire Hornets organization, top to bottom. I regret that we weren’t able to get to that next level, and do a little more than we did. But even if we fell short of some of our goals — that doesn’t change how proud I am of what we built here together.
This place is special. And while this summer was the right time for me to part ways, and move on to another phase in my career — it’s taking nothing away from the Hornets as a fan base or as a franchise. If anyone in the league asked for my advice? I’d encourage them to sign with you all, without hesitation. I’d tell them how it’s a place full of not just great basketball people, but great people — and that things are headed in the right direction.
I’d tell them, with that young group in Charlotte, the sky is the limit.
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports
And then to the city of Boston, and to Celtics fans everywhere, like I said: I’m more of the quiet type. I’m a man of few words. So I’ll wrap this up in a minute. But mostly I just wanted to say a quick hello, and tell you all a little about myself, so you know what to expect.
I’m a leader in my own way. I’m never going to shout anyone off the court, or get overly negative. It’s not my style. But what I do is I take pride in making my teammates better — I’m that lead by example type. I like to keep it direct.
I’m ALWAYS looking to improve! I made my first-ever All-NBA team last season, but I’m not trying to gain satisfaction from that. I’m trying to gain motivation. Every year, my goal is simple: to get better, and go farther.
I take my responsibilities as a professional very seriously — but I also try not to lose sight of why I’m here in the first place. I love this game. So we’re going to grind for those buckets….. we’re going to grind for those stops….. but I’ll tell you what else: we’re going to have some fun out there. And you can bet we’re going to be fun to watch.
And then one last thing about me: I’m a winner. I’ve always been a winner. It’s who I am — or at least who I strive to be — anytime I step foot on the court. And when I think about my future with this team, and how I’m now going to be playing for the Celtics….. I mean, that’s why I feel like it’s a match made in heaven. I want to win here, badly — and I’m excited to prove myself as that type of player in this league. I want to elevate myself into that Boston winning tradition. I want to get this team back on top.
Charles Krupa/AP Images
Anyway — I think that’s about everything that I was looking to put down here.
Thanks for taking the time to read these thoughts.
Charlotte….. you are my people forever. You’re family, straight up. I love you.
And Boston….. I’ll see you all in September. I’m ready. I’m truly ready.
Let’s do this.