New York Knicks point guard Kemba Walker demonstrated leadership with a team-first mentality despite recent demotion to the bench.
In an era of superteams, superstars and maximized fantasy basketball lineups, it can be easy to forget the team-first nature of basketball.
A multitude of teams rely on one key player, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers becoming revitalized with the arrival of Evan Mobley. When Mobley was injured, the Cavs struggled. One singular absence can have a profound impact, but the team must go on.
Being sidelined with injury is a little different than what’s happening with Kemba Walker. After being traded away from the Boston Celtics, the 31-year-old Walker is already seeing a disappointing decline. The starting lineup was lagging, and the Knicks bench was outperforming its starters. Someone had to go, and that someone was Walker.
Walker’s disappointment would be warranted, but instead, he echoed the team-first mentality that has carried many of the NBA’s greatest players throughout the years.
“It’s not about me,” Walker said in a Dec. 6 post-game press conference. “Never in my life, never in my career, off the court or on the court, has it ever been just about me. It’s about the team, that’s what I’m here for. I’m here for my teammates. I’m here to help these guys as much as possible.”
Walker continued that as an NBA veteran, he has an example to set for younger players. With everyone’s eyes fixated on his response to the situation, Walker continues to hold his head high and lead by example.
“I could be pissed, I could be upset, but at the end of the day, there are some young guys here who look up to me,” Walker said. “I’m pretty sure they wanted to see how I reacted to the situation. Anybody on my team down the line could be in the same situation. Maybe I could be a role model in that aspect.”
Kemba Walker puts the Knicks team first amid benching from starting lineup
Walker maintained that he is a “team guy first”, according to everyone who knows him and has played with him.
While diminishing locker room drama is always beneficial to guiding a team’s focus, it’s not unheard of for NBA players to take the podium to say their piece. For example, players who are pressuring teams to negotiate trades, such as Ben Simmons or James Harden, have used the media to get their message across. If Kemba wanted out of New York, now would have been the time to announce that — but he’s going to continue to help his 11-12 Knicks move forward.
Considering his leadership qualities, it’s no surprise that Walker landed one vote as NYC’s mayor. From the bench, Walker joins Knicks Nation in cheering on the orange and blue.
“I’m gonna cheer them on until I can’t anymore — that’s what it’s about.”