Walker's style in Need of Wiggle Room

Walker's style in serious need of Wiggle room

January 24, 1999

   Antoine Walker's employers just gave him a pay raise, effective next year. That means that when Walker looks at his direct-deposit slips in 2000, he will see about $7 million more than he saw in 1999. I do not claim to be a mathematician, but I'd say that's a fair bump, wouldn't you? (Note to the people who operate this newspaper: Call me anytime this morning to begin negotiations on such a raise.)

The Celtics, the people who pay Walker, now want him to become more serious. They want him to be a leader. They don't want him screaming in the faces of officials, as he did to Derrick Stafford, Billy Oakes, Eddie F. Rush, and others (although I fully support screaming in the face of Steve Javie). And if he must scream, the Celtics want Walker to know whom he is screaming at. He has been known to say, "Hey, Ref," when talking to officials. As you can imagine, they don't like that. If Walker starts treating them better, they will do the same with him. It's very simple.

Walker's contract may change his court style. He may become more focused and mature. He may make three-quarters of his free throws and nearly half of his field goals. But I hope the money doesn't change everything about his court demeanor. I hope the money doesn't seep through his veins so much that he no longer allows his body to quake like San Francisco, circa 1906, after a nice play.

That's right. It's out. I can't stay underground any longer. Back up. Clear the parquet. Call Don Cornelius. I'm a one-man "Soul Train" dance line. Give me some wiggle room because, well, I dig the Walker Wiggle.

If you watch the Celtics, chances are that you have debated the necessity of The Wiggle. You know how some people ask you where you live as a way to find out something about you? People do the same thing with The Wiggle.

Those of us who like it supposedly don't love the game. We are the reason basketball is now full of gimmicks, dunkers who can't shoot, and 3-point shooters who can't dribble. We pro-Wigglers do not understand that there was once a time in pro basketball when players didn't dunk ferociously and creatively on breakaways because they didn't want to appear to be showing up an opponent. We obviously haven't seen the footage of Wilt Chamberlain, a giant of his era, flipping in finger rolls when he could have easily been throwing down self-important dunks.

I understand that. But I don't know how anyone could be anti-Wiggle. To be against the Wiggle is a little hypocritical, no? There are fans who complain endlessly about pro sports being ruled by pulseless automatons. There are stories about athletes who don't love what they do, complaints about athletic mercenaries putting in minimal effort before cashing their checks. So when someone cares about the sport and wants to express himself after dunking on Kevin Garnett, there's something wrong with that?

The truth is that you have to love basketball to Wiggle because it is a dance that requires plenty of energy.

Of course, I have to admit that one of my fascinations with Walker's ridiculous dance is that, simply, I don't know how to do it. Yes, I tried. To do it the right way, it seems that you have to have adjustable shoulders and hydraulic hips.

Another reason I love it: It's an original, family composition. We all watched Dan Duquette pushing his palms skyward when the Red Sox secured a wild-card spot last fall. They call that dance Raising the Roof. Everyone can do that. Now, try to imagine The Duke doing the Walker Wiggle. No chance. Even Chris Canty, the notorious Patriots dancer who also pretends to be a cornerback, cannot Wiggle. I am sure of it.

Actually, Walker may not be doing it correctly. That's because, like a good big brother, he stole the dance from one of his sisters. His family watches all of his games, so the Wiggle is an unmistakable, nonverbal "hello" to them. I think it is much more effective than the nonverbal hello Utah's Jeff Hornacek gives to his children. While at the free throw line, Hornacek rubs his ears before shooting. We all have our preferences, but I'd rather watch someone dance than watch someone pick at their ears. But that's just me.

The Wiggle can definitely be irritating if it happens at your expense. Michael Jordan was so upset with the Wiggling Walker in October 1997 that he refused to shake his hand after the game. If you care about the Celtics, you have to like that.

Jordan became a focused mystic when he was on the court. Nothing got to him. He talked trash to disrupt the people guarding him, but when they tried to do it to him, it didn't work. But a wiggling Antoine Walker upset him. That's good.

There were also stories last year about Walker not being liked by opposing players. That's only partially true: They don't like him when he's on the court. Once again, I say that is good. Do you want your star player talking about dinner reservations with players on a team thumping you by 20 points? Or do you want him doing everything he can to give his team an advantage?

There were times last season when Walker's teammates would yell from the bench, "Give them The Wiggle, 'Toine." And away he would go. Even Rick Pitino is a Wiggle fan (he can't do it, either).

I could say more. But I have to go. Time to wiggle. I'm going to get it this time.

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