For a good stretch of years in the ’90s and early 2000s, Antoine Walker was one of the most talented power forwards in the NBA. Not only did Walker have the physicality expected of a traditional power forward, but he was also ahead of his time in being able to knock down long-distance shots. Along with Dirk Nowitzki, Walker played a key role in ushering in the “stretch 4” revolution.
Yet at this point, Walker is seldom remembered for his on-court accomplishments. Instead, his career has been overshadowed by his financial struggles — and in particular his well-documented gambling problem. Here we’ll take a look back at the NBA career Walker put together, as well as the gambling problem that derailed it, and what Walker is doing today.
Antoine Walker’s NBA career
Walker played two years of college ball with the University of Kentucky Wildcats before the Boston Celtics drafted him with the sixth pick of the 1996 NBA draft. Walker’s precocious physical development and smooth shooting stroke allowed him to begin contributing right away. He led the team in both scoring and boards, averaging 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds as a rookie.
Walker came back in his second year with an even stronger performance, putting up 22.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Walker’s excellent play continued for the following five seasons with Boston, where he formed a formidable wing tandem with forward Paul Pierce.
During the 2001-2002 season, Walker helped take the Celtics all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to the New Jersey Nets. While with Boston, Walker made three All-Star teams.
Then, just before the start of the 2003-2004 season, the Celtics traded Walker to the Dallas Mavericks. After that, Walker bounced around the league almost every year, continuing to be a key contributor to his teams. Walker won one championship as part of the 2005-2006 Miami Heat team.
Walker’s career numbers prove that he maintained a high level of play throughout his career. Over the course of 12 seasons, he averaged 17.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He also took an average of 4.8 3-point shots per game — an unusual feat for a power forward at that time.
Gambling troubles while in the NBA
By the time his career came to an end, Antoine Walker’s skills were clearly in decline. Yet if it weren’t for his off-court problems, he might have stuck around for a few more seasons as a veteran bench player. Walker last played for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2007-2008 season.
As late as 2010, it was reported that Walker was trying to make a comeback, but his efforts never succeeded. He formally announced his retirement in 2012.
Walker was always famous for the lavish lifestyle he lived as an NBA star, treating his entourage to expensive dinners and gifts on a nightly basis. Yet it was his gambling problem that finally caught up with him and ultimately ruined his NBA career.
In 2009, Walker faced felony charges stemming from over $800,000 of gambling debt in Las Vegas. Furthermore, Walker had attempted to pay off that debt using bad checks.
Walker also lost a significant amount of money in bad real estate deals. Walker himself attributes those real estate woes as the cause of his having to declare bankruptcy in 2010. When all was said and done, Walker managed to squander virtually every cent of the $108 million he earned as an NBA player.
Where is Antoine Walker now
In recent years, Walker has rehabilitated his name through a mixture of honest reflection and hard work. He has talked frequently about the mistakes he made. But he also worked diligently to right his wrongs. As of 2013, Walker had managed to get himself fully out of debt. He works as an analyst for SEC Network and 120 sports.
Walker also works for Morgan Stanley Global Sports Entertainment. There he runs a financial education program designed to give young athletes the kind of guidance they need to avoid Walker’s mistakes. It’s rare to see a former NBA player pull themselves from the depth of a gambling addiction, but Walker has beaten the odds.