Despite his heroics, the struggling Hornets still needed double overtime to secure the victory.
Walker became the fourth player this season to eclipse 50 points, per Michael Gallagher of Yahoo Sports, joining Houston Rockets 2-guard James Harden, Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler and Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player:
Kemba Walker joins the 2015-16 50-point club!!!! (Harden, Butler and Curry)— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) January 18, 2016
In even more elite company, Walker joined the likes of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and LeBron James, among others, by adding nine rebounds and eight assists Monday, per Thunder Digest:
Kemba is now 7th person since 1985-86 with 50 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. pic.twitter.com/y6OJvoaOCZ— Thunder Digest (@Thunder_Digest) January 18, 2016
Factoring in Walker’s six made shots from beyond the arc, his outing Monday was the first such performance ever, per Tommy Beer of BasketballInsiders.com:
Kemba Walker becomes 1st player in NBA history w/ at least 52 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists & 6 three-pointers in one game. (h/t @bball_ref)— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) January 18, 2016
CJ Fogler of The Cauldron predicted the reaction of Jordan, the Hornets’ primary owner, to Walker’s performance:
Kemba Walker sets Hornets franchise record with 52 points pic.twitter.com/sNY1VOZGIM— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 18, 2016
Though Walker was far from the 81 points Kobe Bryant scored against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006, he did set the high-water mark on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, per Elias (h/t ESPN Stats & Info):
ESPN Stats & Info also shared a graphic of Walker’s shot tracker, showing most of his connections were on the left wing:
Here's what Kemba Walker's record-setting afternoon looked like: pic.twitter.com/NIOL8Xw8Tw— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 18, 2016
Walker is probably best remembered for his remarkable 2011 national championship run with the Connecticut Huskies, leading the team to the title after a five-game win streak in the Big East tournament just to qualify.
Since breaking into the NBA, he hasn’t quite lived up to his collegiate hype, but he appears on the rise this season, as Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey noted:
Speaking of career makeovers: Kemba Walker has been amazing this season.— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) January 18, 2016
Following Monday's eruption, Walker is averaging 19.9 points on 43.3 percent shooting—both career-high numbers—with 5.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. His five-percentage-point increase in three-point shooting percentage has likewise been critical, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer highlighted:
Kemba is shooting 37 percent from 3-point range this season compared to 32 percent in previous seasons. Huge difference.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) January 18, 2016
The Hornets entered the season with ambitious hopes after acquiring do-it-all forward Nicolas Batum from the Portland Trail Blazers, but they had struggled as of late, dropping nine of their past 10 prior to Monday's double-overtime win. Perhaps Walker’s outing is just the spark they need.
After the game, Hornets forward Marvin Williams said he knew early on that Walker was en route to a historic day, courtesy the Hornets:
Despite his remarkable outing, Walker still felt he could've played better, per Bonnell:
Kemba Walkers said he's upset with himself for making so many mistakes down the stretch versus the Jazz.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) January 18, 2016
Yet Walker was all smiles when meeting fans in the tunnel postgame, as the Hornets' team account showed:
What does Walker have in store for an encore? We'll find out Wednesday as Charlotte travels to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.