Boston Celtics star Kemba Walker debated changing his number 8 following the death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, but has since decided to keep it. The 29-year-old point guard said he now thinks the number "means even more" to him. Every time he looks at his number 8, Walker will be reminded to give the game his all, just as Bryant did.
"Now, that number means even more. So every time I step on the court, I just want to give 100 percent for him," Walker told ESPN's Rachel Nichols. "That's my goal for the rest of the year and for the rest of my career."
Walker said he spoke with close friends about changing the number, but he decided that Bryant would probably want him to keep the number.
"I had a talk about it with some close people in my circle," Walker told Nichols, reports Yahoo Sports. "I definitely thought about giving it up but then I thought, I think Kobe would want me and allow me to wear it. We want to keep his legacy going. I know of a few of us that's kept it. We're all just going to go out there and do what we can to play as hard as possible for Kobe."
Late last month, Walker said he was "considering" changing his number, as other NBA players did after Bryant died.
"I'm considering it," Walker said at the time, reports NBC Sports. "But, you know, I'm not sure yet. I definitely have tons of respect for Kobe. But everyone mourns a little bit different. For me, I'm thinking I would love to honor him by wearing that number. Kobe played hard each and every night, and I would like to honor him by doing the same. So, I'm definitely thinking about it, but we'll see."
Walker is averaging 21.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists during his first season with the Celtics. He is now dealing with a knee injury, and is not expected to play against the Houston Rockets Friday night. Walker made his fourth consecutive NBA All-Star game this year.
This is Walker's first season with the Celtics. He previously wore numbers 1 and 15 with the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets, but switched to number 8 when he signed with the Celtics. He originally picked 8 because his birthday is May 8, reports The Athletic.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the Staples Center hosted a Celebration of Life memorial for Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, who also died in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash, on Monday. During the event, Bryant's widow Vanessa Bryant gave a heartbreaking speech about her late husband and daughter.
"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to him together," Vanessa said through tears. "Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nati, Bibi and Coco. We're still the best team. We love and miss you, Boo Boo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you. Forever and always. Mommy."
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