Whenever Kemba Walker looks down at the No. 8 on his jersey, he’ll be reminded of the Mamba Mentality.
While others in the NBA switched their jersey numbers in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, Walker instead decided to honor the Los Angeles Lakers legend by keeping his No. 8. The Boston Celtics guard spoke with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols about what it means to wear that number going forward.
«Now, that number means even more. So every time I step on the court, I just want to give 100 percent for him,» Walker told Nichols. «That’s my goal for the rest of the year and for the rest of my career.»
In the immediate aftermath of Bryant’s passing, Walker considered a number change. Evidently, he decided the best way for him to honor Bryant was to continue wearing No. 8 while putting 100-percent effort into every game, just as Kobe would.
«I had a talk about it with some close people in my circle,» Walker said. «I definitely thought about giving it up but then I thought, I think Kobe would want me and allow me to wear it. We want to keep his legacy going. I know of a few of us that’s kept it. We’re all just going to go out there and do what we can to play as hard as possible for Kobe.»
Not enough Kemba Walker in your life right now? He and I sat down to talk about what it was like replacing Kyrie, wearing No. 8 for Kobe, and what he thinks the Celtics ceiling is this postseason: pic.twitter.com/VyNBM24AZs
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 27, 2020
In 46 games this season, Walker has averaged 21.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 5.0 assists while earning his fourth All-Star selection.
A knee injury has kept Walker out of commission for the last few games, but the Celtics are hopeful they’ll have him back in the lineup sooner rather than later.
Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston’s coverage of Rockets-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.