Samaki Walker at the White House in 2002.
February 25, 1976 |
|Listed height||6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)|
|Listed weight||250 lb (113 kg)|
|High school||Eastmoor (Columbus, Ohio)
Whitehall-Yearling (Whitehall, Ohio)
|NBA draft||1996 / Round: 1 / Pick: 9th overall|
|Selected by the Dallas Mavericks|
|Number||52, 55, 5|
|1999–2001||San Antonio Spurs|
|2001–2003||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2007||Santa Barbara Breakers|
|2009–2010||Seoul SK Knights|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Samaki Ijuma Walker (born February 25, 1976) is an American retired professional basketball power forward and center. Walker played college basketball at the University of Louisville and was drafted in 1996 by the Dallas Mavericks, where he played until 1999. Walker continued to play for the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs (1999–2001), Los Angeles Lakers (2001–2003), Miami Heat (2003–2004), Washington Wizards (2004–2005), and Indiana Pacers (2005–2006). Afterwards, Walker played in various international and minor leagues.
Denny Crum recruited Walker to attend the University of Louisville, where he enjoyed two successful seasons playing for the Cardinals. He recorded the first triple double in school history, with 14 points, 10 boards and 11 blocks in a win over their rival the Kentucky Wildcats. His 11 blocks and the team's 17 blocks in the game were both school records as well. Walker decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the 1996 NBA Draft. Selected ninth overall by the Dallas Mavericks, Walker drew widespread attention on draft day for wearing an all-white suit with a matching fedora.
A 6' 9" power forward, Walker became the youngest-ever Maverick to appear in a game for Dallas. That season, new coach Don Nelson began drastically changing the makeup of the team, and Walker was actually the longest-tenured Maverick while still a rookie. He posted career highs in points and rebounds with 8.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a game during the 1997–1998 season for Dallas.
In the summer of 1999, Walker signed a two-year contract with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. He opted for a smaller deal to play in San Antonio rather than re-sign with Dallas, as he wanted to play under the tutelage of David Robinson and Tim Duncan. He played two years with the team as a reserve.
Los Angeles Lakers
In the summer of 2001, Walker signed as a free agent with the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, who needed a power forward following the departure of veteran Horace Grant. Walker started in 63 of 69 games, averaging 6.7 points per game and 7.0 rebounds for the season, and stepped in at Center for superstar Shaquille O'Neal when injured. He recorded a season high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds in a Christmas Day win against the Philadelphia 76ers. On February 19, 2002, Walker entered the injured list because of a hyperextended elbow.
Walker would only start in 5 of the Lakers 19 playoff games, with Robert Horry entrenching himself as the starter with clutch plays. In Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals on May 26, 2002, Walker made a 3-pointer at the end of halftime; by then the Sacramento Kings led over the Lakers 65-51. Although the shot counted, television replays showed Walker had released the ball after the buzzer went off. The Lakers won the game 100-99 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Horry that tied the series at 2. The Lakers then won the series in 7 to advance to the Finals. Walker's shot influenced the NBA's decision to institute instant replay for review the following season.
The Lakers reached the NBA Finals, defeating the New Jersey Nets in a four-game sweep to win their third straight championship and give Walker his first and only championship ring. Shaq has credited Walker for his contributions to the Lakers championship run, namely his play against Chris Webber of the Kings during the Western Conference Finals series.
The following year, Walker was now the primary backup behind O'Neal and Horry, but still started in 39 of 67 games. The Lakers three–year reign as champions ended with a loss to the Spurs in the conference semifinals. He became a free agent after the season, and the Lakers opted to sign Karl Malone and draft Brian Cook, effectively ending his run in Los Angeles.
Later years and international play
Walker signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat in 2003. The following season, he signed with the Washington Wizards. He dealt with numerous injuries both years and only played 47 games over the two seasons.
Walker spent a brief seven–game stint with the Indiana Pacers during the 2005–06 season and a portion of the 2007 offseason with the Milwaukee Bucks, but was unable to latch on with either team.
In January 2010, Walker was released from Korean Basketball League's Seoul SK Knights after averaging 14.1 points and 8.9 rebounds. In October 2010 he signed again with Al-Jalaa Aleppo. He won a second Syrian League Championship with the team that season, and retired shortly after.
In Swahili, "Samaki" means "fish" and "ljuma" means "beautiful river". Walker has two children: son Dibaji and daughter Sakima. After his 17-year-old nephew Deandre Hillman died from cardiac arrest in 2001, Walker joined the non-profit organization Start-A-Heart, which provides automated external defibrillators to schools and other public facilities. He spent the 2006–07 season forming Life Choices Foundation, a nonprofit aiming to keep youth in inner-city Los Angeles out of trouble.
- "Samaki Walker Bio". NBA. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Walker picks U of L
- Kentucky at Louisville - Sunday, January 1 1995
- Samaki Walker Goes For a Triple-Double – Jan. 1, 1995
- Louisville Tops 'cats As Walker Blocks 11
- "HEAT Sign Free Agent Forward Samaki Walker". Miami Heat. August 1, 2003. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Walker was the longest-tenured player–and he was drafted in June
- Walker, a rookie, as the senior Maverick in terms of service with the team
- Samaki Walker escaped from the Dallas Mavericks by signing a two-year deal
- Samaki Walker, From the NBA to Playing Basketball in Pre–Civil War Syria
- Springer, Steve (February 20, 2002). "Walker Is Put on Injured List". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Moore, David Leon (May 27, 2002). "Horry's buzzer-beater saves day for Lakers". USA Today. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- Broussard, Chris (July 30, 2002). "N.B.A. Will Use Replay To Review Buzzer Shots". The New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
- Open Court: Most Hated Matchups
- Walker Is Expected To Join Miami Today
- Heat sign free agent forward Walker
- Samaki Walker waived by Bucks
- "Bucks sign Samaki Walker". Milwaukee Bucks. September 25, 2007. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- "Samaki Walker". Pressiona. Archived from the original on May 12, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Yoon, Chul (October 14, 2009). "Hoops Fans Unite: KBL Returns Today". The Korea Times. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Kang, Seung-woo; Yoon, Chul (January 12, 2010). "Knights Release Samaki Walker". The Korea Times. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- Brown, Tim (December 13, 2001). "Death Hit Walker Hard". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- "Samaki Walker". Angel Athletes Management. Retrieved March 3, 2011.