Samaki Walker was an NBA player some people may remember for his style of play or for his attire on draft night.
High School Years
Walker attended and played basketball at Eastmoor High School and Whitehall-Yearling High School. In his senior year, he was named a third-team Parade All-American.
Walker went to the University of Louisville for college. In his first season there he averaged 13.7 points per game (PPG), 7.2 rebounds per game (RPG), 1.3 assists per game (APG), 0.6 steals per game (SPG), and 2.7 blocks per game (BPG) in 29 games played. The Cardinals tied for second in the Metropolitan Conference with a 16-13 regular-season record. They made the NCAA tournament as the 11th seed in the Midwest Region. Louisville was quickly eliminated in the tournament’s first round by the No. 6 seed, the University of Memphis. They finished off the season with a 19-14 record.
He improved the following year as he averaged 15.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 2.0 BPG in 21 games played. The team finished off the regular season 19-10 and finished second in their division of the Conference USA. The team made the NCAA tournament again, this time as the sixth seed in the Midwest Region. They made it all the way to the Sweet 16 before getting eliminated in a one-point loss to the No. 2 seed, Wake Forest University. Their season ended with a 22-12 record.
After his second season at Louisville, Walker declared for the 1996 NBA Draft. He achieved the first triple-double in the school’s history during his time there. On January 1, 1995, he scored 14 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked 11 shots in a game against Louisville’s rival, the University of Kentucky.
Welcome to the NBA
Walker was selected 9th overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1996 NBA Draft. He wore one of the most memorable outfits in NBA history on draft night, a cream-colored suit with a matching fedora, an image that is still etched into NBA fans’ minds more than 25 years later.
In his first year with the Mavericks, the big man mainly came off the bench as he started in 12 of the 43 games he played. He put up decent numbers in his first year as he averaged 5.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.4 APG, and 0.5 BPG.
His playing time and stats improved in his second year in the league as he went up from plating 14.0 minutes per game (MPG) to 25.0 MPG and started in 19 of his 41 games played. He put up 8.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 1.0 BPG for the season.
In his third and final season in Dallas, Walker’s playing time and stats decreased similar to how they were in his rookie year. Despite playing in 39 games, he only started in two of them while averaging 14.6 MPG. He averaged 5.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.2 APG, and 0.4 BPG.
During the 1999 offseason, Walker signed as a free agent with the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs. He spent two seasons with the Spurs as a bench piece. He played 148 games and started in 12 of them during his time there. The Spurs made the playoffs during both of Walker’s seasons with the team, but the closest they got to an NBA championship was when they reached the Western Conference Finals in 2001, but they got eliminated by the eventual NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. Walker averaged 5.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.5 APG, and 0.6 BPG while on the Spurs.
In the 2001 offseason, Walker signed with the reigning NBA Champions, the Lakers. While part of the Lakers, he became a starter for them as he started in 107 out of the 164 games he played for them in his two years there. The Lakers went back-to-back as they won the NBA championship in 2002 and Walker won his one and only ring in the NBA. The following year they got knocked out in the Western Conference Semifinals by the eventual NBA champions, the Spurs. In his two years with the Lakers, he averaged 5.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.9 APG, and 1.1 BPG.
Walker again switched teams during the 2003 offseason, when he signed with Miami Heat as a free agent. He spent only one season in Miami in a bench role as he played in 37 games with them, all off the bench. The team made the playoffs that season but was eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Indiana Pacers. Walker averaged 3.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.3 APG, and 0.3 BPG with the Heat.
Final Years in the NBA
He signed in the offseason with the Washington Wizards. Walker played 14 games with them, all coming off the bench. He got released in April 2005, before the season finished. In his short time there he managed to average 1.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, and 0.5 BPG.
He signed with the Pacers during the 2005 offseason but only played 7 games with them as a bench piece. He was waived by them in early January 2006. He averaged 0.3 PPG, 0.4 RPG, and 0.1 BPG in 3.1 MPG.
He spent some time as part of the Milwaukee Bucks but didn’t make the official team roster. That would be Walker’s last stop in his NBA journey
Walker averaged 6.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 0.6 BPG as part of the Mavericks. His early years in Dallas helped him to figure out what his main role would be while in the NBA. During his time with the Mavericks, Walker learned what were his key strengths and weaknesses and utilized that knowledge throughout his career.
In between his Pacers and Bucks stint he played a handful of games with UNICS Kazan, a Russian Professional Basketball League team.
In 2007, he joined Al-Jalaa Aleppo, a Syrian basketball team. The following year he won the Syrian League Championship with the team.
In 2009, Walker played with the Shandong Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association. Later in the year, he signed with the Seoul SK Knights of the Korean Basketball League.
In late 2010, he re-signed with Al-Jalaa Aleppo and won another Syrian League Championship. His playing days ended after that.
Walker has three children, Dibaji, Jabari, and Sakima. Jabari was drafted 57th overall by the Portland Trailblazers in the 2022 NBA draft.
In 2001, he started working with the nonprofit organization Start-A-Heart after his nephew passed away from cardiac arrest.
Walker had a long basketball career that extended beyond his time in the NBA. Whether it was helping his team succeed or helping with charity work, he helped others on and off the court. His hard work throughout his career paid off when he won an NBA championship along with other honors.