It’s been a long time since the Queen City had a representative in the NBA All-Star Game. The last player to represent Charlotte in the annual showcase of the league’s best talent was all the way back in 2010 when Gerald Wallace was picked by the league’s coaches to be a reserve.
While Wallace was in Dallas for the All-Star game, Kemba Walker was a sophomore at Connecticut, still a year away from going down in college basketball history with an incredible run that culminated in a national championship. On Sunday, he’ll join Wallace and five others as the only Charlotte basketball players to be named an NBA All-Star.
Walker is joining an exclusive club, and it’s meaningful for both him and the franchise as a whole.
His selection cements his status as one of the league’s best players and demands media attention for both himself and his team. The Hornets are never going to get the same coverage as the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics or wherever LeBron James is – they’re in a small market and simply aren’t good enough (or, in the case of the Kicks, inept enough as an organization) to garner that level of attention. Despite that, continued high-level play and possible future All-Star appearances from Walker would force at least some level of attention to be played to the Hornets, and that’s meaningful.
Being a part of the league zeitgeist means more recognition, more respect and more money for the team ownership. Big-name free agents will never be lining up to wear the purple and teal, but some valuable players could be swayed to join a team with a beloved head coach and one of the best point guards in the league. It’s unlikely to make a tangible difference, but it’s at least nice for Walker and the team to gain some level of recognition for the work they’ve put in.
There’s another reason that Walker’s selection is meaningful to the organization. Charlotte lost their right to host the NBA All-Star game due to a draconian “bathroom bill” that banned anti-discrimination laws, among other things. It was a serious blow to the city and may have contributed to former governor Pat McCrory losing his seat in the 2016 election. Walker being invited to the game in New Orleans doesn’t make up for losing the right to host the game, but it does start to help heal the wound.
The honor also has a big impact on Walker’s personal legacy in Buzz City. An All-Star appearance puts him in rarified air among former Charlotte players; one made up of only six players: Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Glen Rice, Eddie Jones, Baron Davis and the aforementioned Gerald Wallace. With the exception of Jones, those players are Hornets (or, in the case of Wallace, Bobcats) legends. Walker is already fourth all-time in games played for the franchise, second in points and third in assists. By the time his career in Charlotte comes to an end, his name will be all over the record books, but that’s not enough to be considered a franchise’s best player ever: Dell Curry leads in a number of categories for the team, and though he’s arguably the most beloved player in Hornets history, he’s certainly not the best.
Being named an All-Star means that Walker has been recognized as one of the league’s best, and that’s important when it comes to a player’s legacy. It may not be at the top of anyone’s mind, but it’s exciting to see as a fan.
This season has been somewhat disastrous for the Hornets, and it can be hard to find silver linings in the dark raincloud that has seemingly settled over Charlotte in 2017. Perhaps the only real positive has been the wonderful play of Kemba Walker, his All-Star nod and all of the wonderful things that come with that, for both the player and the franchise.