Antoine Walker Deserves Fan Respect for Returning to NBA Development League

Hey, remember Antoine Walker?

There's no reason you shouldn't. He's only 34, he used to be a big star in the NBA, and for seven years, he was the face of a franchise in Boston.

And on Wednesday night, he made a low-profile return to professional basketball, playing 26 minutes for the D-League's Idaho Stampede in an 83-80 victory over the Dakota Wizards. He came off the bench and scored 13 points — he shot 5-of-11 from the field, 0-for-3 from the free-throw line, where he regrettably threw up one complete airball. So not a terrible night, but not a great one either for the Celtics' former leader.

Walker was a star at the University of Kentucky, the No. 6 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft, and he became a very rich man at a very young age when the Celtics maxed him out in 1999 for $71 million over six years. He then squandered that money away over the next decade, drowning in gambling debts and filing for bankruptcy in 2010.

In Boston, Walker is remembered as a selfish player who took a lot of bad shots and put his face on the poster for all the Celtics' dismal losing seasons around the turn of the century. The C's couldn't win a thing until Walker was long gone and Paul Pierce was joined by a pair of like-minded selfless stars in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

But that doesn't mean we should shun Walker forever. Walker is more than just one somewhat disappointing basketball talent — he's an icon from a forgotten period in Boston sports history. The lost years, the era after Larry Bird and Bobby Orr but before Tom Brady and Pedro Martinez. Walker was one of Boston's lovable losers.

There's no reason to be bitter today. Boston is title town again, and all should be forgiven. So let's remember an old fallen hero, and let's hope there's still a place for him in the game he loves.

What do you think? Are you rooting for Antoine Walker too? Share your thoughts below.

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