He grabbed hold of the commuter pole, steadying himself for another ride on the airport terminal shuttle. This was in Houston, on his way to Orem, Utah, but it could have been anywhere. His expression -- despondent, exhausted -- was that of a man who had lost much more than a basketball game.
To the business types and families crammed in this vessel with a former NBA All-Star, the only priorities were a palatable meal and a clean connection. The tall, athletic-looking man in his mid-30s could have passed for a neighbor or a youth basketball coach or just another traveler coping with the misery of the road. The only giveaway -- the lone symbol of Antoine Walker's long and accomplished NBA career -- was worn on his head. He blocked out the noise -- "Terminal B. This is ... terminal B ..." -- with silver Skullcandy headphones. They marked him as having something to do with basketball as much as his 6-foot-8 frame and sweat suit did.
"The NBA is easier travel, an easier lifestyle, and definitely you make more money," said Walker, whose personal and financial agony has him attempting an improbable comeback in the NBA Development League. "The pay and the travel are the biggest difference."
This is Walker's life for now, and in some ways it's worse and in others far better than it was before. It depends on your perspective and when you pick up the story.