The Boston Celtics beat Hornets 108-87 in Kemba Walker’s emotional return to Charlotte.
As he peered up at the video board suspended above the court, Kemba Walker broke into a wide smile and tears trickled down his cheeks. The Hornets honored their all-time leading scorer with a highlight video Thursday night, giving the Boston Celtics point guard a hero’s welcome in his return to Charlotte. As the tribute ended, the crowd erupted with a loud, one-minute standing ovation.
“It was special,” Walker said. “Just to be back here and the amount of love I have been getting today and leading up to this day. The video just topped it off. It made me really emotional. I was trying to hold it in, but I couldn’t. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to.”
Jayson Tatum scored 23 points, and Walker got what he ultimately wanted — a victory — in his homecoming game as the Celtics soundly defeated the Charlotte Hornets, 108-87. It was an underwhelming performance by Walker’s standards.
The three-time All-Star who once scored 60 points on this court was held to 14 on 4-of-12 shooting and didn’t make his first field goal until three minutes into the third quarter.
Walker said the video didn’t impact his play on the court, but coach Brad Stevens believed it contributed.
“Yeah, it’s really hard,” Stevens said. “He had the right idea coming into the game but you knew right after they played that video, that probably was going to be a tough start. That was really cool and a great tribute by the Hornets. I know how much he appreciated it.”
Walked played eight seasons in Charlotte before signing with the Celtics after Hornets owner Michael Jordan elected not to give Walker a five-year, $221 million supermax contract. But he left on good terms with the organization and its fans. After the game, Walker stayed on the court hugging members of the organization, including some of the ushers. “It’s always great to see Kemba,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “I love that guy. He has a great spirit. He’s a great competitor and a wonderful person. I think it was a good night for him and for all of us. Both teams have moved on, but it’s always good to see him.”
Gordon Hayward added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who scored 17 points off 21 Charlotte turnovers. Miles Bridges had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Hornets, who had their three-game win streak snapped. Charlotte was just 6 of 31 from 3-point range.