James wrapped his arm around Walker’s head, holding her to his own while he spoke to him. Davis huddled around them, added a few words and then hugged Walker.
“Tell him this is what it was built for,” Davis said. “This was the moment he’d been waiting for. And it shined.”
Walker exploded for 15 of the Lakers’ 27 points in the fourth quarter, helping them to a 104-101 win over the Lakers. Golden State Warriors In Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals, they built a 3-1 series lead over the defending champion.
It was a great moment for Walker, who went from being a starter this season, missing 14 games with hamstring inflammation in January, then walking out of the rotation just after the trade deadline.
When asked to describe his feelings, Walker didn’t hold back.
“The greatest feeling you can ever imagine,” Walker said. “As a kid, that’s something I dreamed of doing, not just being part of the playoffs, but influencing it.”
Walker didn’t even attempt a shot until the fourth quarter. Then he went 6-for-9 from the field, scoring more points in the fourth quarter than in any game in the playoffs.
He dominated from start to finish. Fifteen seconds into the quarter, he made a 3-pointer. With 15 seconds left and the Lakers leading 102-101, he made two free throws to seal the win. He helped the Lakers claw their way out of a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit, and they now sit one win away from the penultimate round of the playoffs.
James credited Walker for showing exemplary professionalism in the face of adversity.
“In my 20-year career, I’ve seen a lot of players kind of lose faith in themselves or lose themselves if they’re on rotation or starting or minutes in the squad, and then they’re taken out of the squad because of certain situations or circumstances, whatever the case may be,” James said. “.
“…for him to be young in this league and consistently show, every day, he was professional, great energy, high personality. It showed why he could throw everything to the side and so well he was tonight in that moment. The play ball would go to him.” Absolutely tonight. We can’t win without him.”
Likewise, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said he’s seen too many youngsters “fail miserably” when given big chances because they didn’t have the right attitude.
But Walker stayed positive throughout each setback, and continued to work harder.
Walker was part of what Hamm referred to as a “stay prepared group” organized by one of his assistant coaches. The guys who didn’t get several minutes would fight among themselves.
During those practices, Hamm’s assistants watched the players’ approach.
Hamm said he had only heard positive things about Walker. It gave him confidence that Walker could handle such a big moment in a crucial match.
“That karma, that good, productive, positive karma, it’s real,” Hamm said. “Whatever you put full circle, he’ll either come back and slap you in the face or he’ll come back and give you a hug. And so, you know, the energy he gave, he came back and I hugged him — and we hugged him because we needed all of that.”
Walker did not play in nine games at the end of the season. And in this postseason, he was benched for three games and played just 30 seconds in two other games.
But he was still ready.
When asked how he remained optimistic through it all, Walker said that unless he’s giving his 100 percent, he feels like an egoist.
“Truth be told, it may sound narcissistic or otherwise, but I love myself and want to be my best self,” Walker said. “I think the greatest award of all is that I’m ambitious, and I’m eager to be where Lebron and AD are [are] – You know, be a star.
As James and Davis huddled around Walker after the match, the 24-year-old was all overwhelmed. He couldn’t help but cherish everything.
He remembers them talking to him about “beating the storm” and “learning to dance in the storm”.
For Walker, it was a winning moment that he will never forget.
“I’m really proud of myself,” he said. “It really just shows my abilities and my mental fortitude.”
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, Los Angeles Times, Bay Area News Group, and San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @Melissarohlen.
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