Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kemba, Jeter; Jeter, Kemba

We heard Kemba Walker compared to a lot of different players at Tuesday's press conference: Allen Iverson, Chris Paul, Tim Hardaway.

How 'bout this one (avert your eyes, Red Sox fans): Derek Jeter.

We say this for two reasons. For one, on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, Walker -- who grew up not far away in the Bronx but who hates him some baseball -- will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Yankees-Orioles game. Walker has never played baseball -- never really played anything other than basketball -- so he's understandably nervous about throwing a pitch in front of thousands of baseball fans. When asked what's more nervewracking, throwing out the first pitch or playing Butler in the national championship game, Walker paused and then, with straight face, answered: "Probably the first pitch."

But the real analogy derives from the fierce, winning attitude displayed by both Walker and Jeter. Both are natural-born leaders who absolutely hate to lose and love nothing more than to win. Both are terrific natural athletes, but both possess the intangibles needed to overcome some of their shortcomings.

Both, of course, are ferocious competitors.

So what do you think of that analogy, Jim Calhoun, noted Red Sox fan who threw out his own first pitch at Fenway on Saturday?

"Derek was kind enough to come over to congratulate me during the game, which I really appreciated. There's no doubt that Jeter, Pedroia ... guys like that, where they get it from and how they are -- yeah from their parents, yeah from God -- but they don't come along every single day. They really don't. A couple of guys we've had, if they had of what Kemba has, that year would have been so much better for us. If they had some of the drive he has, leadership ... He's unique."

I think that passes for Calhoun agreeing with my Kemba/Jeter analogy.

Anyway, as we mentioned before, Kemba's not a big baseball fan.

"I can't watch baseball," he said. Too slow, apparently. "It's too long, too," he added. (Lucky he's not taking in a Red Sox-Yankees game Wednesday night).

Despite growing up about 15 minutes from the House That Ruth Built and practicing with the New York Gauchos right nearby, he says he's never made it to a Yankees game. (His mom, Andrea, insists she used to bring Kemba and his older brother to games when they were little kids).

Still, he's looking forward to the experience -- including possibly meeting Jeter.

"That's going to be special," he said. "Derek Jeter is one of the more famous guys in MLB. To meet him and Alex Rodriguez and guys like that, that'll be cool."

Walker will be flanked by most of his teammates, including Boston-area native Alex Orkiakhi, who was sporting his Red Sox hat on Tuesday.

"I’m thinking about wearing this hat," Oriakhi confirmed.

"He'd better not," said Walker, shaking his head.

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