Jalen Rose and Jimmy Walker

Based upon the way the Lakers and Celtics utterly sonned the Spurs and Mavs yesterday, respectively, today’s article on the the best father/son NBA pairings over at The Hoop Doctors is particularly apropos.

Dr. Anklesnap gives the number one spot to Rick/Brent Barry, although I would imagine most people would give the nod to Kobe/Jellybean Bryant based on the strength of Mamba alone.

Regardless, the most interesting duo by far to me is Jalen Rose and Jimmy Walker.

Both were NCAA legends.

Both scored more than 10,000 career NBA points.

And both never met the other person.

After years of no contact, they eventually did speak on the phone a few times, but before they ever got around to making time for a face-to-face, Jimmy Walker died of lung cancer. Jalen went to the funeral, and that scene (along with a stellar account of their detached relationship) is detailed in this article:

As the service ends, and as the many who’ve come to remember two-time NBA All-Star Jimmy Walker exit the Kansas City funeral home, Jalen Rose remains seated, his head partially bowed, his emotions visibly scrambled.

He is closest to the podium, where a steady stream of family and friends — representing Walker’s 63 years of life — sang his father’s praises moments before. …

Rose, had he stood to speak, would have represented Walker’s athletic gene. Had he addressed the crowd, Rose could have bragged about how for a long time the two were the top father/son scoring duo in NCAA Division I history, or boasted about how they are the only father and son tandem to each score over 10,000 points in their NBA careers.

Rose, however, sat silent.

His bewildered state is for good reason. Unlike the nearly 100 people gathered, Rose never knew Walker. Never even met him.

So this funeral on this July afternoon represents the first time Rose and Walker have shared the same room. Yet even now in Walker’s death, Rose is unable to set eyes on the man who gave him life. Walker, his body ravaged by lung cancer, has been cremated. Rose is able to look only at a photograph of Walker perched next to an urn.

Walker, who had a very brief relationship with Jalen’s mom, first reached out to Jalen at one point during the 1992 March Madness that vaulted the entire Fab Five into iconic status. He gave him a letter. But Jalen never brought himself to read it until eight years later. And during those eight years — as throughout the rest of his NBA career — he encountered countless reminders of his slick-scoring pops who had first made his name as a Friar at Providence College in Rhode Island.

In 1997, Rose’s second year in Indiana, the Pacers drafted Austin Croshere out of Providence. Croshere had won the school’s most valuable player trophy (the Jimmy Walker MVP Award), and his presence became a steady dose of Jimmy Walker tidbits:

“You look just like your father. … You should come visit Providence, everything at the school is named after your father. … I’ve got a couple of trophies with your father’s name.”

That aforementioned letter from Walker was delivered by Detroit Free Press writer Mitch Albom, who had recently interviewed Jimmy for his upcoming book Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk and the American Dream — one of the best sports I’ve ever read. In addition to going into even greater detail about Jalen’s emotional struggles growing up without a father, it’s an excellently structured, written and researched book in which Albom used his great access to these five teenagers to truly encompass what it’s like to walk around a campus as a universally heralded expected-legend when you’re 18 years old.

Essentially, it’s a book-form, Bizarro World sequel to Hoop Dreams had those kids “made it.” And had there been five of them. And had they revolutionized college basketball. And defined hoops fashion. And gone to back-to-back NCAA title games (and three straight Elite Eights). And had three of them later gone on to make a combined $300 million.

So, yeah, just like Hoop Dreams.

One other interesting note about Fab Five is that Kobe’s current agent, Rob Pelinka, was also a Michigan Wolverine during the Fab Five-era and he’s featured fairly prominently throughout the book.

In sum, it’s a phenomenal piece of sports journalism. Buy it here used for $5 and don’t tell me I never did anything for you.

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