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If Antoine Walker Shimmies, But it's In Boise, Is He Really Shimmying?
March 19, 2012
The three-time NBA All-Star shares a distinctive piece of NBA history with Michael Jordan. So how did he end up here, in the remotest of hoops hinterlands?
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March 19, 2012

If Antoine Walker Shimmies, But It's In Boise, Is He Really Shimmying?

The three-time NBA All-Star shares a distinctive piece of NBA history with Michael Jordan. So how did he end up here, in the remotest of hoops hinterlands?

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That afternoon Walker sends a text. He is on a later flight that lands in Boise around 7 p.m., and he is burnt out. The interview will have to wait until Friday.

On Friday afternoon, at his small apartment that is paid for by the Stampede, Walker is sitting on his couch, cradling a jug of Crystal Geyser and flipping on SportsCenter, which is showing a near-continual loop of Jeremy Lin, the NBADL poster boy who in the span of a week went from dreamer to international sensation.

Slowly at first, Walker begins to talk about his life. He is open, at ease and amiable. He says he is still in love with the game, that he's a huge NBA fan, but there's a problem: He can't get the NBA package at his apartment. So instead Walker heads to local sports bars in Boise-Old Chicago with its 31 beers on tap and army of flat screens, or The Ram or Buster's-and sits on a stool, watching the teams he used to play against. He especially likes watching his old buddy with the Celtics, Paul Pierce, who is only a year younger than him. "I'm happy for him," Walker says of Pierce, with whom he has lost touch. (Asked to discuss Walker for this story, Pierce declines, saying through a Celtics spokesman that he "would rather not go back in time.")

As for his own NBA dreams, Walker says he no longer expects a call-up, though he hasn't given up hope. "It would have to be the perfect situation," he says, adding, "Honestly, I don't feel like the guys in the NBA are that much better than me." He says he received some overseas offers last fall-Poland, the Middle East-but nothing that blew him away. Anyway, he had legal stuff related to his debts to take care of in the States, and he's comfortable in Boise. He trusts Livingston, the weather's "not too bad," and it's cheap. He gets a $40 per diem on the road, and he's never expected to pick up a check; when the team goes to Applebee's or Chili's, the players get separate bills.

"This has been a safe haven for me-being around the guys, having a structure, having a schedule, having to get up early, having to be somewhere on time, compared to just sitting at home," Walker says. "All those things are good, the little stuff you never think about when you're playing and everything is great."

He bristles at how he has been portrayed, saying that his gambling was "misunderstood," that the media created a "black cloud" over his reputation and that it was a "misconception" that up to 70 people were on his payroll. "I did nice things for my friends and family," he says. "That's how I was raised."

He admits to regrets, too. "Sometimes it makes you slap yourself over the head," he says of the bad decisions, loans to friends and investments gone wrong. "But at the same time I can't cry over spilt milk; I got to keep going." He pauses, rubbing his forehead as if palming a basketball. "Believe me, I've had many a day where I just look at myself in the mirror, like, Damn, how you get into this situation?"

Instead, Walker's trying to find the silver lining. He says that through his bankruptcy he's learned who his true friends are and realized that "those who don't have good intentions for you weed themselves out." Some, like former Kentucky teammate Nazr Mohammed, who has loaned Walker money, have stood by him. Others have stopped calling or, like Jordan, have drifted away. Still, now he gets to spend Thanksgivings at home and has become more involved in the lives of his two daughters. (Walker and his fiance, Evelyn Lozada, split in 2009, after he filed for bankruptcy; she's now engaged to Chad Ochocinco, the NFL receiver.) When talk turns to the future, Walker says he's starting to do his "due diligence" and deciding whether to pursue his degree online or go back to the classroom. He's also involved with a start-up consulting company. The idea, which came from a Boise businesswoman, is to serve as a watchdog for pro athletes in the management of their finances. "It's a way to give back," Walker says, "so that other guys don't make the same mistakes I made."

A little before 5 p.m., Walker heads to his bedroom, where a box spring and mattress lie on the floor, half-covered by a comforter. A bed frame rests in the closet, but Walker hasn't gotten around to setting it up. He pulls a pair of giant brown jeans from a bag and places them on an ironing board, then warms up his iron. Walker is wearing them to the game tonight, and he wants them to look well-pressed.

Why does he keep going?

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