July 22, 2024

Kemba Walker retires: UConn legend produced slew of iconic moments, but Hall of Fame bid likely a longshot

Four-time NBA All-Star Kemba Walker retired from basketball on Tuesday after 12 seasons. The former UConn standout spent the past season overseas at AS Monaco and last played in the NBA during the 2022-23 campaign for the Dallas Mavericks. 

While Walker’s NBA credentials (over 14,000 career points, four-time NBA All-Star and a third-team All-NBA selection) are among the best in his draft class, his chances of making the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame are slim. Basketball Reference only gives Walker a 15.1% chance of earning a spot in basketball’s most hallowed halls. 

Yes, Walker’s substantial college resume should bolster his chances for a place among basketball’s immortal names in Springfield, Massachusetts. He averaged 16.1 points per game during his time at UConn, including 23.5 per game in his final season. That year Walker led his team to an NCAA title, earned Consensus First-Team All-American honors and was a Final Four MVP. 

But Hall of Fame voters rarely give college merits the same recognition as NBA accomplishments. For example,  Duke’s Christian Laettner — one of the most decorated college basketball players in the modern era — still lacks an individual spot in the Hall of Fame (though he is enshrined as a member of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team).

While Walker looks like a longshot for the Hall of Fame at this point, it doesn’t take anything away from his legendary college career. Since he is hanging it up for good, this is a perfect time to look back at some of his most iconic moments in a UConn uniform. 

Walker scores 42 against Vermont

In UConn’s second game of the 2010-11 season, Walker posted a career-high 42 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists in an 89-73 win. Walker would follow that performance with four consecutive games with at least 29 points, including a 31-point outburst against Wichita State in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.

During his final season with UConn, Walker recorded 13 games with at least 25 points. He helped lead the team to a 10-0 start before falling to Pitt on the road. Three months later, Walker would get revenge against the Panthers in memorable fashion. 

Game-winner in the Big East Tournament

The biggest shot of Walker’s UConn career — and one of the most notable game-winners in college basketball history — happened in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals against Pitt. With the game tied at 74-74 in the final seconds, Walker went right, crossed over twice and hit a stepback mid-range jumper at the horn to give the Huskies a 76-74 win.

After knocking off Pitt in the quarterfinals, UConn fired off back-to-back wins over Syracuse and Louisville to capture the Big East title. Walker scored 33 points in an overtime win against Syracuse and 19 in a 69-66 victory over Louisville in the conference title game.

Legendary 2011 NCAA Tournament run

UConn’s run in the Big East Tournament helped the Huskies earn a No. 3 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. After cruising by Bucknell in the first round, Walker scored 33 points in a second-round win over Cincinnati and 36 against San Diego State in the Sweet 16.

Walker scored 20 points in a 65-63 win over Arizona to advance to the Final Four. In the national semifinal against Kentucky, Walker recorded 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a 56-55 win over Kentucky. He finished off the legendary run with a near double-double (16, points 9 rebounds) in the national title game win over Butler to secure the program’s first crown since 2004.