Charlotte Hornets

Hornets' Kemba Walker's 60-point night reminds us how great he is and how far they are from a championship

#Kemba Walker

On a night where the Charlotte Hornets celebrated their 30-year anniversary by recognizing their all-time greatest team, the best Hornet ever stepped up and delivered an unforgettable performance.

Kemba Walker exploded for a career-high 60 points, but a late Jimmy Butler dagger three with 0.3 seconds left on the clock put a dampener on the festivities as the 76ers stole one, 122-119 in overtime.

After the game, instead of accepting the praise he deserved after such a performance, Walker sat slumped in his locker answering questions from the media monotoned - only thinking about the loss.

"P***ed," Walker said when asked how he felt after the game. "(We score) 120, we deserved to win. I'm p***ed."

After started out slowly the Hornets battled back from being down as many as 17 points in the first half and went into the halftime locker room only trailing by seven.

At halftime, the Hornets acknowledged the franchises' all-time team with appearances from the likes of Baron Davis, Dell Curry, Muggsy Bogues and Hall-of-Famer Alonzo Mourning. Walker was, of course, one of the members of the team but he did not come out of the locker to accept the standing ovation from the crowd. What the crowd didn't know was that Walker would once again be giving Hornets' fans his proverbial blood, sweat and tears - knocking down jump shot after jump shot, breaking down the 76ers defence, leaving coach Brett Brown to admit post-game that there was no answer for number 15.

"I say this every time I come here and Kemba makes me say it," Brown told the media. "He is amazing and he is incredible. We try double teaming him, we tried hard-hedging him and the reality of it is, is that you have Joel (Embiid) and Jimmy (Butler) in that situation a lot and he is doing that against two all-league defensive players.

"He is just hard to guard and he is really unique. He can create contact and initiate that sort of physical play to generate free-throws and get his shot off.

"60 points in an NBA game against a pretty good defensive team is a remarkable effort."

Walker became the 26th player in league history to join the exclusive 60-point club - and while the great Wilt Chamberlain did it 32 times throughout his career, the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and some from yesteryear like Julius Erving and Oscar Robertson have never crossed the 60-point threshold.

Many of the names mentioned are already enshrined in the hallowed halls of the Naismith Hall of Fame and the others will most likely hear their names called one day.

Walker's Hall-of-Fame status to this point may be split amongst many. An NCAA champion, who in the NBA has been undoubtedly the best player a franchise has ever seen should be enough to get you in, but for the naysayers, they believe Walker simply hasn't won enough in the pros.

Which brings up the question: What will Walker do in the off-season? It's a decision that in the opinion of some will impact his legacy, others believe he's already done enough in his career. One thing that everyone can agree on is that Walker deserves a real legitimate chance to win a championship - Charlotte, as constructed, may not offer him that opportunity.

Walker has said that he wants to stay in the Queen City and see his journey through with the franchise that took a chance on him with the ninth pick in the 2011 Draft. As one of the lowest paid stars in the league at just $12 million dollars this season, the Hornets owe Kemba a raise. Walker might be eligible for a super-max come July, but at age 29 and his best years potentially behind him will the team be willing to offer it to him?

Will the Hornets even let it get to that point? It's early in the season and a lot can happen but new General Manager Mitch Kupchak can take a look at the NBA landscape - especially in the Eastern Conference and realize that his team - while still a playoff team - is a fair bit off competing for a championship.

After back-to-back losses, first to the Cleveland Cavaliers and then the 76ers on Saturday night the Hornets sit a game below .500 (7-8) in a battle for the eighth seed.

It's time for Kupchak to take a look at what the future may hold for the franchise, either look to move Walker or continue to build around him by getting him some more help.

The road doesn't get easier for the Hornets as the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers roll into town on Monday and Wednesday respectively. Reality could sink in pretty quickly as both those team could be first-round foes if Charlotte were to make the playoffs - and two teams that would be favoured to beat them in said best of seven series.

The team and its star is in limbo right now and only Kupchak can get them out of it by providing a clear cut path.

It's a lot to think about and the sand in the hourglass may be running out, but for now, Hornets' fans should appreciate what they saw on Saturday night - even if it came in a loss.

"I'm still proud," Walker said of his performance with his head down mourning the defeat. "That's an unbelievable thing to do right there. I'm just mad that we lost. I'm competitive."

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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