Friday, July 06, 2007

The curious tie between Jimmy Walker and the Saints

In the 1960s, there was this smooth-as-leather lanky kid in New England that could do with a basketball what Merlin could do with a wand. A curious link between this kid, who was a legend in Boston circles, and the upstart New Orleans Saints franchise is little known. See, New Orleans drafted this kid. His name was Jimmy Walker, a Boston high school basketball phenom, Providence College All-American and the father of Phoenix Suns NBA player Jalen Rose. Walker died Monday in Kansas City due to lung cancer. He was 63.
Mr. Walker played nine years in the NBA for three teams: the Detroit Pistons, the Houston Rockets, and the Kansas City Kings. But Saints saw the 6-3 lanky kid and thought about a wide reciever catching deep routes along the sidelines. It was a dream before Lynn Swan's acrobatics, before Drew Pearson's long touchdown catches in the back of the endzone, before Jerry Rice's short catches went for 80-yard scores, before T.O. Yeah, see the only problem with that dream, is that ole Jimmy had never played a down of football at Providence. Maybe his heavily Catholic roots in Boston made him diserable to the Saints management. Maybe his athletic prowess was just too good to pass up.

Walker was the No. 1 pick overall in 1967 by the Detroit Pistons, making two All-Star Games, 1970 and 1972, while with Detroit. But his best playing days may have been on the collegiate level. At Providence College from 1964-67 he was viewed as one of the greatest players in New England collegiate history. He scored 50 points against Boston College at Madison Square Garden, and averaged 30 points per game as a senior.
His career scoring record stood for nearly 40 years at Providence until current Celtics forward Ryan Gomes broke it last year.
In the 1990s, it was revealed that Walker was the father of Jalen Rose, a former star guard at the University of Michigan and a member of the Fab Five.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

James "Jimmy" Walker was my oldest brother, to whom I never had the pleasure of meeting. I can remember as a little boy speaking with his mother on the telephone and also receiving a picture of him in his Kansas City Kings basketball uniform from her. I can remember going to school bragging about my brother playing in the NBA. I just wish Jalen could have met his father. I don't know what exactly happened in the relationship with my father and James' mother, but I do believe James grew up believing that my father had abandoned him. Whatever the case may be, my heart goes out to his family.

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