Jimmy Walker, the Pistons’ First-Ever No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Pick (and Jalen Rose’s Father), Was Also ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ in the NFL Draft
2021 marks just the third time in history (and the first time in 51 years) that the Detroit Pistons will make the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. But we’re not here today to talk about Cade Cunningham, who will undoubtedly be the Pistons’ selection. No, today we’re here to discuss Detroit’s first-ever No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, Jimmy Walker, who, as some of you may know, is the father of former Fab Five member, 13-year NBA veteran, and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose, although the two never met.
Walker was a prolific scorer at Providence College and had a solid NBA career. But did you know that he’s also the only man in history to be taken with the first pick in one sport’s draft and with the last in another?
Jimmy Walker was a two-time All-American at Providence College
Discovered on the streets of Boston by Celtics legend Sam Jones, who helped him get into the historic Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, Walker played his college ball at Providence College and was an absolute star.
As a sophomore in 1964-65, he averaged 20.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in helping the Friars to a 24-2 record and an appearance in the Elite 8. The following season, he averaged 24.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, and was named a Consensus First-Team All-American, although Providence bowed out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
As a senior in 1966-67, Walker was dynamite (I can’t not say it once) and led the nation in scoring, averaging 30.4 points, while still adding 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, earning him a second consecutive First-Team All-American selection. His 2,045 total points stood as the school record for nearly four decades until the mark was broken in 2005 by Ryan Gomes. However, Walker was at a disadvantage as he played only three seasons due to the fact that freshmen weren’t allowed to play varsity back then.
Walker was the first pick of the 1967 NBA draft and the last pick of the 1967 NFL draft
Back in the day, the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft was decided a little differently than it is today as there was no lottery. Instead, the top two picks were guaranteed to the teams that finished last in each division. In 1966-67, the Baltimore Bullets finished last in the East with a 20-61 record, while the Pistons finished last in the West with a mark of 30-51. A simple coin toss decided who would get the top pick, which Detroit won, giving them their first-ever No. 1 overall pick, which they obviously used on Walker.
But what some may not know (and maybe didn’t even know then) is that Walker, who never played football at Providence, was also taken with the 445th and final pick of the 1967 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints. That’s right. Jimmy Walker was “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Walker was also taken with the top pick of the 1967 ABA draft by the Indiana Pacers.
He was a two-time NBA All-Star
After being taken with the top pick in the 1967 NBA draft, Walker spent the first five seasons of his pro career with the Pistons. While he was a two-time NBA All-Star in Detroit, he was only able to help the Pistons to one appearance in the postseason.
He joined the Rockets in 1972 but just three games into his second season in Houston, Walker was traded to the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, who became just the Kansas City Kings ahead of the 1975-76 season, Walker’s last in the NBA.
In nine seasons, Walker appeared in 698 regular-season games and averaged 16.7 points, 3.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. He died at the age of 63 in July 2007, the very same month he was supposed to meet Jalen Rose for the first time.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference