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Kemba Walker with Harlem streetball legend Joe Hammond at Rucker Park. Photo via @Entertainers155 on Twitter.

Yesterday, Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker went back home to Rucker Park in support of the Kevin Shaw Jr. Foundation's anti-gun violence event. There, Walker spoke about his decision to join the Celtics, comparisons to Kyrie Irving, and his focus on inspiring the community.

Founded in the New York neighborhood of Harlem, the history of Rucker Park has quite a special place in the world of basketball. Rucker has been around since its earliest basketball tournament "The Rucker League" in the 1950s, which was established by Harlem playground director Holcombe Rucker.

While this may be where the park gets its literal name, "the mecca of basketball" title comes from the many famous faces that have left their sneaker imprint on the cherished concrete, from both the streetball world and the NBA alike.

Some of the earliest names include people like Dr. J (aka Julius Erving), Earl "the Pearle" Monroe, and Lew Alcindor, now known as the NBA's all-time leading points scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


More recently, modern NBA superstars such as Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Kevin Durant have had historic appearances playing pick-up with big local names. For New York native Kemba Walker, these are the players who interacted with Harlem in his youth. Now years later, Walker is back to do the same.


Although he didn't lace up to play, Walker made his appearance known in order to support change that was important to himself and the community in an article written by Kristian Winfield of New York Daily News.

Kemba Walker receives a special jersey at Rucker Park. Photo via Sean Rolle

He first spoke about the main reason he was there, which was to strengthen the movement against violence in any way possible. In the interview, Kemba stated
"One of my close friends was killed due to violence, and we're celebrating his life and not forgetting his legacy. We're trying to promote stopping violence. You know how it can get in these communities. This is just one little step to getting closer to stopping violence as much as we can."
Walker went on to talk about his mission to set an example for the kids in New York and prove that they can get out of their situation just as he did. After speaking to as many kids at the event as he could, Walker told Winfield:
"This is where I'm from. I made it out of here, and I'm living proof that other kids can do that too. So for me to be here, be in front of the kids, for the kids to actually see me, be around me, that's what I love to do. I'm all about community, I'm all about showing the kids that it's possible, because it is."
Walker takes a picture with a group of kids in attendance for the event. Photo via @Entertainers155 on Twitter

Later on, Walker was asked about his decision to join the Celtics this summer in free agency to which he said
"I think it is more so about the fit. It's a perfect fit."

Walker went on to say that with the departure of Kyrie Irving, the open spot seemed like the right call. He also acknowledged the fact that the Celtics had "great young talent" and added how much their interest in him influenced his choice saying:
"When you have interest and when you feel wanted, that's what people want."

Just with the mention of his name, Kemba was questioned about the comparisons being made between him and his fellow eastern conference all-star point guard Kyrie Irving. He didn't seem interested in the debates going on about the two, saying
"I guess we do similar things. It's always gonna be that comparison. I don't really pay any mind to that. I just try to play basketball and win games. That's really it. Try to win games as much as possible."

With this, it seems Kemba is ready to move forward towards a new start with a focus on one thing and one thing only: winning. A mentality like this is very much welcomed by Celtics' fans who dealt with a drama-filled disappointment of a season last year. This is just another block that helps build excitement towards the new-look Celtics' in the 2020 season.
The Kevin Shaw Jr. Foundation is a group that supports minority high school students with scholarships as they head into their first year of college. Founded in the fall of 2015 by Kevin Shaw Sr. in the memory of his son, the foundation focuses on the importance of education in the success of the upcoming generation. If you would like to look towards donations or upcoming events, you can check it out at www.kevinshawjrfoundation.org.

You can follow Thomas Desmond on Twitter @td_654.

Thomas Desmond 7/29/2019 05:45:00 PM Edit
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