“Spiritual Gifts” (Former College Player of the Year Marques Johnson On UConn’s Kemba Walker)
Marques was a member of Coach Wooden’s last National Championship team at UCLA in 1975, and also the first winner of the prestigious John R. Wooden Award in 1977, given annually to the nation’s best college basketball player.
So, I’ll be the first to admit that I was on the late freight. Didn’t have a clue as to the exceptionalism that was happening right in front of me. Call it West Coast bias, or just a case of being overloaded and encumbered with so much basketball on the left coast.
Jimmermania can do that to you. D. Will had taken his game out in the Arizona desert to heights unimaginable.
Whatever the reason, the greatness of Kemba Walker had eluded me, a self-professed hoop-head of the highest order. I am squarely and comfortably seated on the bandwagon now though.
I have been duly impressed, and I’m not even talking about the indefatigable run through the Big East tournament. I missed that too. Forced to sit down and watch this gem of ball player for entire games has given me an entirely different perspective.
It gnawed at me, like the name of some person in my past whose imagery I had conjured up in my mind out of thin air. Who does he remind of, I kept asking myself……[MORE]
The quick silver first step, the tendency to favor going left to create the adequate space to get his jumper off. The fearlessness that he attacked the tall timber forested in the key.
Who does he reminds me of, taking over in crunch time like the great ones did so routinely, I’m talking West, Bird, Magic, MJ, Isaiah (the original), and all the others.
This Kemba Walker cat had the ever elusive “IT”.
Then it hit me, out of nowhere, just sitting around thinking about this game that I have been forever irretrievably connected to. It may have been during one of my many forays into my past glory. Citing specific situations where I had given less than I possibly could have, thereby coming up just short of the desired outcome.
Or at the other end, playing at the magical level that only a handful ever get the privilege to experience. The similar size, the blinding quickness, the stop on a dime jumper, going left.
“Going left”, that was the dead giveaway that allowed me to make the conscious connection between the “here and now” and “the way it was”.
Raymond Lewis has always been the best ever to come out of Los Angeles. We can argue about who is in the number two position and on downward, though Paul Pierce is making that a moot point.
But Kemba Walker for me, is Ray Lew reincarnate.
It’s as if the basketball God’s lifted Raymond’s considerable talents that lay dormant in the ethers, and spiritually infused them into Kemba. If any of you fellow aficionados have heard of Ray Lew’s folklore and want to get a glimpse of what his game was like, watch Kemba Walker.
I admit I was so enthralled with the faux, pseudo- Maravichian stylings of Fredette that I pretty much conceded my Player of the Year vote months ago to him. And I still like him a lot as a college player.
But after watching what Kemba has done these past few weeks, I have had a change of heart. The best player in the country today, the player most deserving of the Wooden, Naismith, and whatever other awards are out there to be had is Kemba Walker.
He would’ve made Raymond Lewis proud to be compared to him, and that is saying a lot, if you knew Ray Lew.
Follow Marques on Twitter @olskool888