Kemba Walker called his first game back in Charlotte on Thursday night “special”.
The new Celtics guard received a 90-second tribute video and a huge standing ovation from Hornets fans prior to tip-off.
Walker, who played the first eight seasons of his NBA career with Charlotte, was emotional from the warm reception, fighting back tears while being introduced by Hornets public address announcer Patrick Doughty.
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) November 8, 2019
“Just to be back here and the amount of love I’ve been getting throughout this day, leading up to this day, it’s been a lot of love, and the video just topped it off,” Walker told reporters. “It’s special, and it definitely obviously made me really emotional. I was trying to hold it in, but I couldn’t. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to.”
Walker scored 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting in the Celtics’ 108-87 win. Coach Brad Stevens noted how difficult it probably was for Walker to play in Charlotte as the visitor.
“Yeah, it’s really hard,” Stevens said. “He had the right idea coming into the game, but you knew right after they played that video, that probably was going to be a tough start. That was really cool, and a great tribute by the Hornets. I know how much he appreciated it.”
Walker’s former Hornets teammate also showed love for the three-time All-Star. Cody Zeller wore shoes honoring the local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, where Walker mentored four students. The four students, named Caleb, Jaliyah, Miles, and Devyn, wrote messages for Walker on the shoes.
— B/R Kicks (@brkicks) November 8, 2019
“They were dope,” Walker said. “They were pretty cool, man. Like I said earlier, Cody is a very close friend of mine. We played together for a very long time, so for him to pay tribute to me and my mentees like that was pretty special.”
Walker will return to Charlotte one more time this season when the Celtics play the Hornets at Spectrum Center on Dec. 31.