Kemba Walker has faced a lot of the NBA's harshest realities over his first five seasons in Charlotte. He was drafted into a lockout, and once that ordeal ended, he suited up for perhaps the worst single-season in NBA history -- the tanktastic 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats, who finished 7-59. At right around 6-feet-0, Walker has struggled at times to finish in traffic, or sharpen his pull-up jumper enough to compensate.
But he also emerged as the beloved, charismatic leader of a frisky playoff-level team. He takes more big shots than anyone in the league, works the NBA's nastiest in-and-out dribble, and has worked hard on his defense.
Walker recently sat down with ESPN.com for a chat about the Hornets' new offense, his childhood dancing, the ordeal of tanking, and whether he'll ever dunk again.
You now have a very important designation: You are the last player left from the Bobcats team that went 9-57. Or, wait ,was it 7-59?
It was 7-59.
Do you have any memories of that season, or did you just do an "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" erasing thing?
That was my first season, so I got a lot of memories, man. It was a tough year, but it was also fun.
Yeah. We had a great group of guys. Even though we were pretty bad, the group we had -- we made it fun.
Who are you still tight with?
DeSagana Diop. That's my guy.
I remember about 10 games into the season, you guys came to New York, and Paul Silas was just straight-up calling Diop and Diaw fat.
That's my dude. We talk all the time. Actually, I just saw him in Dallas. He lives out there. It was cool to see him.
Were you watching the lottery after that season? Do you remember [general manager] Rich Cho's face when you guys came up No. 2?
Oh, yeah. I do. He was pissed. You know, we got MKG [Michael Kidd-Gilchrist] out of it. He's really good. It's a lottery. You never know what's gonna happen. That's what it's for.
Is there any part of you that misses the Creamsicle orange from the Bobcat era?
Nah. I love the Hornets colors.
You guys are shooting a ton of 3s, moving the ball, and playing a bit faster this season. Are you enjoying it?
I love it. I'm enjoying this system, and this season. It's a great group of guys. We work super hard, but they make the days go by fast and easy.
Do you feel the extra spacing on the floor this season? And maybe the easier shots you can get working off the ball, next to another playmaker like Nic Batum?
It's just great basketball, and great players. It's not only the space. Those guys know how to play the game. They bring a certain of intensity every night. It's just fun to be around, when you know you can go out and compete, and actually give yourselves a chance to win. It's fun.
A year ago, you told me you had to reach the point with your jumper that people couldn't go under picks against you. Are you there?
I'm getting there. I've worked really hard to become the best shooter I can be. This league is all about percentages, and yadda yadda. I get that my percentages haven't been good. I'm trying to get there, still. I believe you can't go under on me. When guys go under, I'm gonna shoot it.
You guys have struggled when you, Big Al, and Cody are all on the floor together.
Yeah. The numbers are ugly. Why do you think that is? Bad spacing?
I have no idea. I love playing with Cody.
Our system is built for him to create action. He's one of the best on our team at that, in terms of random screens, hand-offs, getting guys open, and finding Al. I love playing with Cody.
Maybe the numbers will revert.
I think they will!
I've heard you a harsh critic of Big Al's fashion game.
Oh, man. We're working on it.
You are unhappy with his taste in jeans.
The jeans are a big issue. Literally. They are pretty big.
Does he need to get with the skinny jeans look?
Not too skinny. He's a big guy. Just bring them down a little bit more. We're working on it. We've spoken at length about it.
Can anyone on the team hang with you, in terms of wardrobe?
Troy Daniels is pretty good dresser.
You performed as a dancer at the Apollo Theater in Harlem when you were a kid. You can actually dance, but I don't think you do any fun dance thing during starting lineup intros, right? Why not? Come on!
Them days are over man. Long gone. I do it sometimes around my friends, but for the most part, nah. I'm pretty shy, believe it or not.
They never booed you at the Apollo, right?
Never. They can't boo people our age. They can't boo young kids. We were like 10 years old.
Can anyone on the Hornets dance?
There are some great dancers on this team, actually. Jeremy Lamb is a great dancer. P.J. Hairston can move. They are probably the two best. And Frank [Kaminsky] is a great dancer.
He can move?
You didn't seen Frank in China?
Oh, man. I didn't. I didn't do my dancing research!
Oh, you gotta find it. It's hilarious. Frank can dance, man. You gotta find that one.
Is Jeremy Lin's hair cool or ridiculous?
It's pretty cool.
I think you're just being nice.
It's cool. We all like it. It's an advantage for us. If anyone messes with us, he can, you know, just get 'em for us. [At this point, Walker mimics Lin bending over at the waist, and using his hair as some sort of battering ram into an enemy's chest -- kind of like a bull goring a matador).
Have you gotten into a political debate with Spencer Hawes yet?
No. Not yet. But I'm pretty sure it might come up. That guy is pretty crazy, man. He's a cool dude, though.
You haven't even tried a dunk since November of 2013. Do you remember the last one you tried?
I wanna say against Milwaukee.
That's the last one you made.
So then I wanna say against Miami.
Yup. You missed that one, and you haven't tried to dunk since.
Yeah, I missed it, right at the end of the game.
So is that it? No more dunks? Come on!
It's only two points. It's too much energy for me for two points.
The little guys do need a long runway.
Yeah, I need a runway. And even then, I probably won't do it ever again.
Let's see how well you remember your last successful dunk. Who hit you with the outlet pass?
Correct! Now, there was a big guy on Milwaukee who was running after you, trying to chase you down. Remember who it was? I'll be impressed if you get this.
Wow. That's correct.
Yeah. I remember everything about it.
What do you think your shooting percentage is the past three seasons on shot attempts in the last minute of close games -- when the score is within two points either way.
Wow. I'm not sure. It should be pretty high, I hope. I hope. Maybe 50 percent
17-of-56. Thirty percent.
Wow, that's horrible. That's really bad.
Hey, that's probably not far from the league average. Those are the hardest shots in the league. I do feel like everyone remembers the makes, but not the misses, right?
You said under one minute left, right?
Yeah. Super-crunch time. The whole defense geared up for you.
Yeah, that's pretty tough.
You've also taken more of those shots the last two years than anyone in the league.
Really? That's pretty cool.
Did you ever play one-on-one against Maya Moore at UConn?
With her? No. She'd probably beat me, though.
Did you all get along, or was there competition between the programs? Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma aren't exactly buddies.
Yeah, I was pretty cool with Maya. All the girls, really. We all got along pretty well.
No jealousy at all?
Nah. I played pick-up one time with them before.
How'd it go?
It was pretty good. I mean, they're good. Maya was the most dominant that day, of course. She's taller than me.
What are the goals of this team? Win a playoff round?
Just to win. That's it. I just want to win. I'm a big believer in that the more you win, the more accolades flow to everyone.
Would not making the playoffs just be a disaster, I assume?
Of course. But that's for every team in the NBA. The whole point of the regular season is to make the playoffs. We just want to win.
Give me one little thing you're really focusing on this season -- one thing you've noticed on film, maybe a little subset of defense or something.
Always my defense. Coach Cliff [Steve Clifford] always wants me to be a pest defensively. That's one thing I always want to be better at. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of being more consistent with my ball pressure and my defensive intensity.
I remember you saying how hard he is on you to get around screens without getting picked off. Do you think you've gotten better?
I've gotten so much better at just getting through screens, and getting back in front of my man. That just came with my just strengthening my body.