Kemba Walker: ‘It’s Cool to Wear Antoine Walker’s Number’

The Celtics formally introduced All-Star point guard Kemba Walker to the local press Wednesday, and he revealed that former C’s forward Antoine Walker gave him “the blessing” to rock his old #8 jersey.

“There’s no numbers available,” Walker cracked.

President of basketball ops Danny Ainge said he “had a pretty good idea in March or April” that Kyrie Irving would bolt as an unrestricted free agent.

Kemba is excited to improve Boston’s team chemistry—which was toxic last season—and join forces with rising star Jayson Tatum.


Naturally, one All-Star point guard replacing another is going to draw comparisons. That is especially true here, given how tumultuous Irving’s final season in Boston turned out to be. Walker, though, said he didn’t reach out to Irving before making his decision on whether to play for the Celtics. And, when it comes to the comparisons, Walker said he will have no problem dealing with them.

“It’s fine,” he told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan in a sit-down interview Wednesday. “It’s OK. I guess it’s going to come with the territory. It wasn’t a great year for those guys [last year]. There’s always such expectations with this organization, and things didn’t go well, so now that I’m coming in and I’m taking [Kyrie’s] place, I know I’m going to be asked questions about him and things like that.

“It just didn’t work out. It happens. It happens so much in this league. We know how great of a player Kyrie is, but it just didn’t work out. Hopefully I can come in and it works out. That’s my plan. But you can’t tell the future. You never know what’s going to happen. But through hard work, dedication and us working together, hopefully we can get things back on track.”

The fact he already has relationships with Tatum and [Jaylen] Brown — Tatum recently signed with Jordan Brand, which Walker is part of, and the two spent time in Paris together, and he went on a trip to Africa with Brown in the past — should help. And when asked directly about it, Walker said he was confident he’d be able to help them grow into the players Boston hopes they can be.

“I think so,” Walker said. “I think so. I think my skills complement these guys. I love to get in the lane and I’m gonna have a lot of attention. That’ll definitely open up opportunities for other guys, but for the most part, I think I made my teammates better in other ways, just being a good teammate, wanting the best for those guys and pushing them as much as possible. It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

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