Michael Jordan Gave Hornets Player Simple Words of Encouragement That Changed His Career Forever: ‘He Basically Told Me I Drafted You for a Reason’
In March 2010, Michael Jordan made NBA history by becoming the first former player to buy a franchise. He bought the Charlotte Hornets (they were the Bobcats back then) from Bob Johnson for $275 million.
Since purchasing the Hornets, Jordan has drafted only one All-Star player. That was Kemba Walker, who played his college basketball at UConn and was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Early in his career, Walker received plenty of advice from Jordan, arguably the greatest player in NBA history. While the Chicago Bulls legend gave Walker loads of encouragement, the All-Star point guard will always remember a specific quote from His Airness.
Michael Jordan to Kemba Walker: I drafted you for a reason
When he first got to Charlotte, Walker wasn’t as aggressive as he should have been on offense. Sensing that from the youngster, Jordan had a conversation with Walker that changed The Bronx, New York, native’s career forever.
“I think early on in my career, I was deferring a lot,” Walker told Steve Serby of the New York Post. “And he didn’t want that. He basically told me, ‘I drafted you for a reason.’ “
Walker averaged 12.1 points and 4.4 assists during his rookie season. Charlotte only won seven games in the lockout year. They were the laughingstock of the NBA, and Jordan was likely fuming behind closed doors since he’s such an intense competitor and hates to lose.
The Hornets only made the playoffs twice during the Walker era. However, with the help of Jordan, Cardiac Kemba became one of the best players in Charlotte history.
Kemba Walker is Hornets’ all-time leading scorer
All it took was some words of wisdom from Jordan for Walker to start playing like a star. The playmaker averaged 17.7 points and 5.7 assists in his second season and became must-see TV for basketball fans who enjoyed ball-handling and scoring exhibitions.
In 605 games with Charlotte, Walker averaged 19.8 points and 5.5 assists. He’s the franchise leader in points (12,009), minutes played (20,607), field goals (4,164), 3-pointers (1,283), and free-throws (2,398).
On November 17, 2018, Walker scored a career-high 60 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. He came nine points shy of tying Jordan’s game-high, which is 69.
In the summer of 2019, Jordan and his staff had to make a tough decision. They chose not to offer the All-NBA guard the supermax contract he was eligible to receive. The Hornets and Boston Celtics executed a sign-and-trade deal involving Walker and Terry Rozier, ending the Kemba era in Charlotte.
While it certainly must have been difficult for Jordan to move on from Walker, he landed his new franchise player in the 2020 draft.
LaMelo Ball is Michael Jordan’s new franchise star
The Hornets selected LaMelo Ball with the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and Lonzo Ball‘s younger brother made Jordan proud. The youngest Ball brother averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.1 assists en route to winning the 2020-21 Rookie of the Year Award.
Charlotte missed the playoffs in Ball’s rookie season. However, the franchise certainly has a bright future with LaMelo, Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges, and Kelly Oubre Jr. leading the way.
As for Walker, he lasted only two years in Boston before getting traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC bought out the four-time All-Star, allowing him to sign with his hometown New York Knicks. Jordan will get a glimpse of Walker in a New York jersey on November 12, when his Hornets host the Knicks at the Spectrum Center in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina.