Andrea Walker will never forget the moment she heard that her son was going to be wearing a Knicks uniform.
The Walkers were at a family wedding in the Dominican Republic earlier this month when word came down that Oklahoma City had agreed to buy out Kemba Walker’s contract and the Knicks planned to sign him to a two-year deal.
"I was so happy," she said Tuesday. "My daughter had just gotten married the day before and we were headed out to dinner. We got the news and we were just drinking and partying and celebrating.
"We were coming home!"
Yes, Bronx-born Kemba Walker is home and no one is more excited than his superfan mother, whose support of both her son and his teams have endeared her to fans, teammates and coaches over the years.
Walker’s mom and several other members of his tight-knit family were on hand Tuesday at Madison Square Garden as the team held a news conference to introduce new additions Walker and Evan Fournier, Walker’s teammate last season with the Boston Celtics who was acquired in a sign and trade deal.
Andrea and Scott Walker raised their family in a two-bedroom apartment in the Soundview section of the Bronx. She worked as a health care worker. Her husband was a carpenter. They encouraged their son to follow his dreams, whatever they might be.
The youngest of four siblings, Kemba loved both basketball and dancing growing up. In fact, he was part of a group that danced at Harlem’s Apollo Theater when he was 10. Andrea said she never considered back then that her son would one day play for the Knicks, even when he was a star player at Rice High School in Harlem.
"Everybody was playing basketball," she said. "I didn’t really didn’t think that way about it."
That all changed during her son’s junior year at University of Connecticut when he established himself as the leading scorer in the nation with an average of 26.7 points per game and led the Huskies to an NCAA title.
His most famous moment of that run took place at Madison Square Garden when he hit a step-back jumper to beat top-seeded Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals of the 2011 tournament. The Knicks included that highlight in a video montage played before the start of the news conference.
"That’s when we knew something special was happening," Andrea said.
Kemba can remember the shot as if it was yesterday.
"It was crazy," he said Tuesday. "It was a really dope time for me because I never beat Pittsburgh in my career. When I hit that shot, it was like an explosion. I love playing in this arena. It’s different because I’m from here.
"I’ve played here so many times growing up. It’s definitely going to be different now wearing a Knick jersey. It’s going to be better. Ten times better."
It’s been more than 10 years since Walker, 31, hit that shot. Eight of those years, he played like a superstar for the Charlotte Hornets. Over the last two, he has some ups and downs playing for the Celtics, who traded him to Oklahoma City after they lost to the Nets in the first round.
Walker was never a perfect fit with the Celtics and he struggled with a left knee injury that kept him from playing back-to-backs last season and caused him to miss the final two games of the Celtics-Nets series.
He said Tuesday that he is motivated to prove that he is still an elite-level player and this is the perfect time and place for him to do it.
"I think it is," he said. "Perfect timing. Really motivated. Super excited these guys have belief in me. That’s all I need. I just need someone to believe in me. These guys do, and I appreciate that."
And his family will be here to have his back. Andrea and most of the Walker family has lived outside of Charlotte, North Carolina since Walker started playing there. Though she’s not sure if she will permanently move back to New York, she said she will be at as many games as possible.
Andrea Walker was asked if she planned to be a Knicks fixture like superfan Spike Lee.
"If he wants me to, I’ll be there and sit next to him," she said with a laugh. "I am vaccinated."
And the happiest fan in New York.