Samaki Walker reflects on NBA career, time with Mavericks
In June of 1996, the Dallas Mavericks selected Samaki Walker with the 9th pick in the NBA Draft. By the end of that season, Samaki had been on the Mavericks roster longer than any other player.
After two successful seasons at Louisville, Samaki came to Dallas as an athletic power forward looking to compliment the “Three J’s” in the era of Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson, and Jamal Mashburn under a new first year head Jim Cleamons.
However, in addition to the usual struggles that rookies face in the NBA, Walker had to deal with the revolving door that became the Maverick’s roster during that season, as a total of 26 players suited up for the team that year.
“It was interesting, it was interesting,” said Walker when asked of the roster shake-up during his rookie year.. “I didn’t know who to call, or what the hell was going on.”
Despite a turbulent first three years in Dallas, Walker showed flashes of the skills that made him a lottery pick and was offered a contract to stay in Dallas past his initial rookie deal. He turned it down, mainly due to the uncertainty he dealt with during his time as a Maverick. From an outsider’s perspective, Walker’s decision to leave Dallas seemed like a smart move. He went on to play as a solid backup front court player in San Antonio, playing with the legendary tandem of David Robinson and Tim Duncan. After two seasons with the Spurs, one of the most stable franchises in professional sports history, Walker moved on to the Los Angeles Lakers, becoming an important front-court player for the 2002 NBA champions. However, when reflecting back on his NBA career, Walker now wishes he had stayed in Dallas past his rookie deal.
“One of the things I do regret, is that I wish I would have stayed in Dallas. Even though I won a championship, and I love the fact that I won a championship, I got to play with some of the best players. Going to San Antonio, playing with Tim Duncan, David Robinson, obviously Shaq and Kobe, got a ring there. But I have seen that talented team develop… with Michael Finley, Nash, Dirk. I see myself having a spot on a team like that, ” recalls Walker.
Walker played in the NBA through the 2006 season, before eventually playing overseas for several years in Russia, China, Korea, Lebanon, and Syria.
Today, basketball still plays a very active role in Walker’s life. He spends his time training amateur basketball players in the LA area, passing on the knowledge he gained from coaches like Don Nelson, Gregg Popovich, and Phil Jackson.
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