Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Kenny Walker, November 23, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Introduction / family

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Partial Transcript: Alright Kenny I'm gonna have you first, uh, state your name and your hometown.

Segment Synopsis: Kyle Macy initiates his interview of Kenny Walker. Walker talks about his hometown and growing up with older brothers.

Keywords: Roberta (Ga.)

Subjects: African American basketball players; Basketball; Brothers and sisters; Families; Georgia

GPS: Roberta (Ga.)
Map Coordinates: 32.721389, -84.0125
00:00:56 - Beginnings in basketball

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Partial Transcript: They were very instrumental in me, uh, getting into the game of basketball because they all played.

Segment Synopsis: Walker explains the origin of his interest in basketball as a child, and his later successes in high school basketball.

Keywords: Dunking; Growth spurts; Older brothers; Pick-up basketball; State championships; Utility houses

Subjects: Basketball; High school

00:05:06 - Being recruited for college

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Partial Transcript: So you won back to back state championships your junior and senior year.

Segment Synopsis: Walker explains why he chose to attend and play basketball at the University of Kentucky. He also describes his recruiting process.

Keywords: Basketball traditions; Billy Thompson; Charles Barkley; Chuck Person; Herschel Walker; High school state basketball championships; Hometown pressure; Hometown ties; McDonald's All-Americans; Recruiting letters; rivalry

Subjects: Basketball players--Kentucky; College Sports; College sports--Kentucky; College students--Kentucky--Interviews; University of Georgia; University of Kentucky--Basketball

00:08:48 - Knowledge of the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: How much did you know about Kentucky and Kentucky basketball when you were coming out of high school, before this whole recruiting process started?

Segment Synopsis: Walker describes how he learned about Kentucky basketball and its traditions while he was in high school, and how that influenced his decision to attend the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Clyde Zachery; Kentucky basketball; Leonard Hamilton; Small towns

Subjects: Basketball legends; Tradition.

00:11:52 - The Kentucky fan base

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Partial Transcript: How do you describe the fans of Kentucky basketball?

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about what the fans of the University of Kentucky were like.

Keywords: Fandom; High expectations; John Calipari; Twitter; Winning and losing

Subjects: Basketball fans; University of Kentucky--Basketball

00:15:10 - Beginning his basketball career at UK

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Partial Transcript: Let's go through your, uh, career if you would, year by year starting in '82-'83.

Segment Synopsis: Macy and Walker talk about the beginning of Walker's career at UK.

Keywords: Encouragement; Mentors; Self- esteem; Seniority; Sixth man; Team building

Subjects: Basketball; Basketball injuries; Confidence; Encouragement; Nicknames; Respect

00:21:01 - Midnight Madness

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Partial Transcript: You talked about the Midnight Madness, which Joe Hall, a lot of people give him credit for starting the craze that, you know, swept the country.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about the first Midnight Madness from his freshman year at Kentucky.

Keywords: Big Blue Madness; College basketball recruiting; ESPN; Memorial Coliseum; Midnight Madness; Setting trends

Subjects: Basketball coaches; Basketball fans; Basketball stories

00:26:09 - Freshman season 1982-1983

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Partial Transcript: Let's get back to the season, as I said, you were, uh, twenty three and eight during that 82-83 season.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his first year of collegiate basketball, and his adjustment to playing college basketball.

Keywords: Bobby Knight; NCAA Tournament; Rematches; Rivalry; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Upsets

Subjects: Basketball; Basketball players--Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Basketball

00:34:01 - Sophomore season 1983-1984

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Partial Transcript: So let's go to that next year '83-'84. The team, uh, finishes twenty nine and five.

Segment Synopsis: Walker shares what his sophomore year was like, marked by the return of Sam Bowie.

Keywords: Basketball practice; Return from injury; Southeastern Conference (SEC)

Subjects: Auburn University--Basketball

00:55:26 - Junior season 1984-1985

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Partial Transcript: Yeah let's talk about that '84-'85.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about an "up and down season" and Joe B. Hall's last season as a coach.

Keywords: Disappointment; Double double; No pressure

Subjects: Basketball coaches--Kentucky; Basketball players--Kentucky; Hall, Joe B. (Joe Beasman); University of Kentucky--Basketball

01:04:26 - Joe B. Hall's retirement and the aftermath

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Partial Transcript: After the game Joe B. retires.

Segment Synopsis: Walker describes his perspective on Joe B. Hall's retirement, and his experience with the hiring process of Eddie Sutton.

Keywords: Coaching pressures; Coaching search; Expectations; NBA draft; Swagger

Subjects: Basketball coaches--Kentucky; Hall, Joe B. (Joe Beasman); Retirement

01:10:09 - Senior season 1985-1986

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Partial Transcript: Look, that first year at the University of Kentucky, I think people forget about how good, you know, Eddie Sutton really was because of the way that it ended.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks details about his senior season.

Keywords: Fun and free; Senior Night; Team trips; Underrated

Subjects: Basketball players--Kentucky; Thanksgiving; University of Kentucky--Basketball

01:30:05 - Barnstorming

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Partial Transcript: Uh, did you all barnstorm after the season?

Segment Synopsis: Walker explains what barnstorming was and what UK's last barnstorming tour was like.

Keywords: Fans; Farewell; Seniors

Subjects: Barnstorm; Nostalgia

01:32:29 - NBA draft

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Partial Transcript: 1986 then the NBA draft comes along, did, did you--did they have you come into New York for the draft?

Segment Synopsis: Walker discusses his NBA draft experience and the pressure of playing for the New York Knicks.

Keywords: Detroit Pistons; Indiana Pacers; New York Knickerbockers (New York Knicks); Phoenix Suns

Subjects: National Basketball Association

01:39:07 - 1989 Slam Dunk Contest

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Partial Transcript: Well you mastered it very well and in 1989 you won the Slam Dunk contest.

Segment Synopsis: Walker details how the slam dunk contest changed his career trajectory and Knicks fans' views of him.

Keywords: NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Subjects: Dunking (Basketball); National Basketball Association

01:50:37 - Confidence in his NBA ability

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Partial Transcript: Um, as far as your NBA career, it seems like every player at some point they have that moment where they know that they, they, they belong in the NBA.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about some success in the NBA and hitting a game winning shot in the playoffs.

Keywords: 5 game series; Boston Celtics; Confidence; Game winner; NBA playoffs; Respect

Subjects: Basketball players; National Basketball Association; Respect

01:53:11 - Second half of his career: Europe and return to the NBA

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Partial Transcript: Um, after you you played there at New York for a while then you went to Spain, which I, I didn't even know this, that you went to Spain and played for a year.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about what it was like to play basketball in Europe, return to the NBA, and then play back overseas in Japan.

Keywords: Injuries; NBA training camp; Washington Bullets

Subjects: Basketball; Italy; Japan; Spain

02:00:20 - Life after basketball

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk a little bit about your post-playing career.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about how he got involved with sports media, and the honor of having his jersey number, 34, retired.

Keywords: "Cold Pizza"; "First Take"; ESPN; Sports post-game talk shows

Subjects: Basketball; Radio; Radio broadcasting of sports; Radio broadcasting--Kentucky

02:03:59 - Personal reflection on his career

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Partial Transcript: Looking back on your, your career and everything, what are you most proud of?

Segment Synopsis: Walker shares how he is most proud of his personal development, and his relationship with Rodger Harden.

Keywords: McDonald's All-American

Subjects: Basketball; Fame; Growth; Parents

02:13:21 - Thoughts on college basketball today

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Partial Transcript: Uh last question, uh, the game's changed a little bit since you played to now, now this modern game whatever you want to call it. Whats your take on, on college basketball today?

Segment Synopsis: Walker evaluates the state of college basketball today and compares it to when he played.

Keywords: "Big man"; "One and done"; Physical plays; Physicality; Player development; Shot clock; Three point line; Three point shot

Subjects: Basketball players.