The 1996 NBA Draft is known as the best of all-time. The top 20 includes Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and of course Samaki Walker. Samaki (and his suit) was the 9th pick of the draft, projected to be better than Kobe Bryant and more. The Dallas Mavericks drafted the potential stud out of Louisville after swapping picks with the Celtics, who drafted the better Walker.
Samaki went on to be the franchise’s youngest player to ever appear in a game, and managed to have a decent rookie year, averaging 5 ppg and 3.4 rpg starting in 12 games. The next season he started in 7 more games, and averaged career highs with nearly 9 ppg and 7.4 rpg, Samaki actually looked like a promising power forward. Unfortunately the next season Walker was limited, but he still put up 6 ppg.
The next season the championship Spurs signed Samaki to contribute off the bench. In his two seasons with the Spurs he averaged 5.2 ppg. Walker was released in summer 2001, and claimed by the Los Angeles Lakers to be their starting PF. Walker was a solid role player averaging 6.7 ppg and 7 rpg, shooting over 50% for the only time in his career.
Samaki is most known for his 3-point halftime buzzer beater in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Kings that shouldn’t have counted. As the story goes, the Lakers make an epic comeback and Robert Horry hits a game-winning 3-pointer. Kings fans blame Samaki Walker, the refs, and Vlade Divac’s tip for the loss. However, Kings fans should blame me for their loss…
I just so happened to be at the tunnel of that game when Robert Horry was walking to the court from halftime. I didn’t know exactly what to say, but when he passed me I immediately screamed and demanded, “Hit a 3 for me Robert!” (We were on a first name basis). Horry didn’t respond, or turn back and give me a wink like I hoped, but I know he heard me. That 2nd half he hit a few three’s, but I know that last one was for me. So, am I as responsible as Samaki Walker for that comeback win? Yes. Clearly I motivated Robert Horry, and if it weren’t for my command he wouldn’t have made that shot. That 3 was for me.
(I’ll admit I have nothing to do with the implementation of the instant replay, that’s all Samaki).
Samaki would go on to win a ring for the Lakers in the prime of his career. He continued to play for the Heat, Wizards, and Pacers before going overseas for more playing time.
In 2010 Walker averaged 14.1 ppg and 8.9 rpg in China, he still got it…but then he lost it last year when he tried to eat eight grams of marijuana.