Bill Walton

Bill Walton
PositionCenter
Nickname“Big Red-Head”[1]
Height ft  in ( m)
Weight lb ( kg)
NationalityUSA
BornNovember 5 1952 (1952--) (age 55)
La Mesa, California
CollegeUCLA
Draft1st overall, 1974
Portland Trail Blazers
Pro career1974–1987
Former teamsPortland Trail Blazers (1974 – 1979)
San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers (1979 – 1985)
Boston Celtics (1985 – 1987)
Awards1972, 1973, 1974 USBWA College Player of the Year
1973 James E. Sullivan Award
1972, 1973, 1974 Naismith Award
1978 NBA MVP
1978 Sporting News NBA MVP
Two-time NBA Champion (1977, 1986)
1977 Finals MVP
1986 NBA Sixth Man of the Year
NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
Hall of Fame1993
William Theodore Walton III, better known as Bill Walton (born November 5, 1952), is a former American basketball player and current television sportscaster. He is the father of current Los Angeles Lakers player Luke Walton. Walton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on May 10, 1993.[2]

Early life & college career

Walton was born in La Mesa, California to Gloria Anne Hickey and William Theodore "Ted" Walton.[3]

At the age of 17, he played for the United States men's national basketball team at the 1970 FIBA World Championship.[4]

He played college basketball for John Wooden at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1971 to 1974, winning the national title in 1972 over Florida State and again in 1973 with an 87-66 win over Memphis State in which the big redhead from San Diego made an impressive 21 of 22 field goal attempts and scored 44 points. Some regard this as the greatest ever offensive performance in American college basketball. The Walton-led 1971-72 UCLA basketball team had a record of 30-0, in the process winning its games by an average margin of more than 30 points,one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time. He was the backbone of two consecutive 30-0 seasons and was also part of UCLA's NCAA record 88 game winning streak. (Ironically, discounting its losses to Notre Dame to begin and end the streak, UCLA won 133 consecutive games, as the Bruins won 45 in a row before a previous UCLA team led by Sidney Wicks lost to Notre Dame and Austin Carr. Walton still admits the loss to Notre Dame's Coach Digger Phelps to end the 88-game streak bothers him more than any other loss in his career.)

Bill Walton was the 1973 recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. Walton also received the USBWA College Player of the Year and Naismith College Player of the Year as the top college basketball player in the country three years in a row while attending UCLA, at the same time earning Academic All-American honors three times. Some college basketball historians rate Walton as the greatest who ever played the game at the college level.[5] That year, Walton went 21-22 in the 1973 championship game against Memphis State with 44 points. In Bill Walton's senior year of 1973-74, UCLA was inexperienced at guard, and the school's streak of seven consecutive national titles was snapped when North Carolina State defeated the Bruins 80-77 in double overtime in the NCAA semi-finals. After Walton's graduation in 1974, UCLA defeated Kentucky for the NCAA title in 1975 to complete an amazing run of ten national championships in twelve years. Legendary Bruin coach John Wooden retired after UCLA's 1975 title, and Bill Walton was one of the key figures during the school's unprecedented and likely never-to-be-repeated domination of college basketball. With the departures of Wooden and Walton, the UCLA dynasty came to an end.

NBA career

Walton was drafted number one overall by the Portland Trail Blazers and was hailed as the savior of the franchise. His first two seasons were marred by injury (at different times he broke his nose, foot, wrist and leg) and the Blazers missed the playoffs both years. It was not until the 1976-77 season that he was healthy and, spurred by new head coach Jack Ramsay, the Trail Blazers became the Cinderella team of the NBA.

Walton led the NBA in both rebounds per game and blocked shots per game in 1976-77, and was selected to the NBA All-Star Game but did not participate due to an injury. Walton was named to the NBA's First-All Defensive Team and the All-NBA Second Team for his regular season accomplishments. In the post-season, Walton led Portland to a 4-0 sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals (in spite of a powerful performance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and went on to help the Trail Blazers to the NBA title in 1977 over the favored Philadelphia 76ers (despite losing the first two games of the series). Walton was named the Finals MVP.

The following year, the Blazers won 50 of their first 60 games before Walton suffered a broken foot in what turned out to be the first in a string of foot and ankle injuries that cut short his career. He was nonetheless named the league MVP that season (1978)and the Sporting News NBA MVP too. He played in his only All-Star Game in 1978, and was named to both the NBA's First-All Defensive Team and the All-NBA First Team. Walton did return to action for the playoffs, but was reinjured in the second game of a series played against the Seattle SuperSonics. Without Walton to lead them, Portland lost the series to Seattle in six games. As it turned out, Walton would never play for the Trail Blazers again. During the off-season, Walton demanded to be traded, citing unethical and incompetent treatment of his and other players' injuries by the Blazers' front office. He did not get his wish and sat out the 1978-79 season in protest, signing with the San Diego Clippers when he became a free agent in 1979.[6]

Walton spent several seasons alternating between the court and the disabled list with both Portland and his hometown San Diego Clippers. After the 1984-85 campaign Walton went shopping. He called on two of the league's premier teams, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. After several Celtics said they liked the idea of having Walton as a teammate backing up workhorses Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, Red Auerbach made the deal happen. One in particular was Larry Bird, who happened to be in Auerbach's office when Walton called and said that if Walton felt healthy enough to play that it was good enough for him, as opposed to Lakers GM Jerry West, who was hedging his interest in Walton pending a doctor's report. Boston acquired Walton by sending popular forward Cedric Maxwell to the Clippers along with a first-round draft pick. Walton once again had the chance to play for a NBA champion, and his childhood hopes of playing for the Celtics were realized. Providing a reliable backup to Bird's fellow front-liners Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, Walton would receive the NBA Sixth Man Award that season, becoming the only player to have ever won both the Sixth Man Award and MVP.

However, he was again injured the following season. Walton attempted a comeback in 1990, but injury again intervened and he retired from the game. His ankle problems became so severe years later that he had both his ankles surgically fused. His saga of injury and failed rehabs was connected to the use of pain killers by the doctor who was assigned to his case. Walton has said repeatedly in his broadcasts that he is just as much to blame for taking the medication as the doctor was for giving it to him. Yet his experience with injuries and the circumstances surrounding them have come to serve as a warning for professional athletes who undergo major injury as well as being an interesting case study for medical ethics.

He was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, and had his number 32 retired by the Blazers in 1989. In 1996, he was named as one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players of all time.

Broadcasting

Since his retirement as a player, Walton has overcome a severe stuttering problem to become a successful NBA color commentator for NBC (1990-2002), Los Angeles Clippers (1990-2002) and ABC/ESPN (since 2002).

Walton's trademark catchphrases include, "That's a terrible call! Terrible," "Where in the world is [x]?" (for a player who has disappeared from a game), "What is a foul?", "He couldn't even inbound the ball!", "Throw it down, big man! Throw it down!", and "Basketball is a game played by men competing for the ultimate prize". In addition after a predominantly one-handed player makes a basket going to his strong hand Walton will summarize the action and then say, "He's left-handed by the way Marv" or "Someone should tell player |x| that player |y| is left handed and promises to be so for the remainder of the game," intimating that perhaps the defender should defend that side of the player. Walton typically is paired up with Steve "Snapper" Jones for NBA games due to him and Jones having a point-counterpoint banter during games. Despite their frequent on-air argumentative banter they are actually good friends as was evidenced in Bill Walton's short lived 2003 TV series Bill Walton's Long Strange Trip.

In addition, his commentary during games is often criticized for the degree to which he exaggerates his statements. In one instance where Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs had a pass deflected out of bounds by a defender, Walton stated, "Tony Parker just made the worst pass in the history of Western civilization!" Often this is done to intentional or perhaps unintentional comedic effect. He also is rumored to have challenged Marv Albert to a wrestling cage match and was considered "out of line" for the provocation. During one game he announced, Walton stated, "I am the hero, I am #1, I can go in there and shake and bake all those youngins and teach them some real basketball so they can stop their complaining".

Personal life

Walton's son Luke, although not as tall as his father, played collegiately for the University of Arizona and now plays for the Lakers as a forward. Another of Walton's sons, Chris, played for San Diego State University. Nate, his middle son, played basketball at Princeton University but then entered the corporate world and earned his MBA from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. Nate was also on the ballot for the 2003 California Recall Election, receiving 1,697 votes. Walton's other son, Adam, also played NCAA basketball at LSU.

Walton is also a well-known fan of the group Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band, Phish, and Bob Dylan. He has attended more than 650[7] Grateful Dead concerts, including traveling with the band to Egypt for its famous 1978 performance before the Pyramids, quotes Dead lyrics in TV and radio interviews, and was once invited to play on-stage with the group. To fellow Deadheads, Walton is fondly known as "Grateful Red" and the "Big Red Deadhead". In the video for Touch Of Grey Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart is wearing a Celtics jacket that was given to him by Walton.

Walton expounds upon his music interests on his own satellite radio show, One More Saturday Night (named after the Dead song "One More Saturday Night"), heard during late prime time on Sirius Radio's Jam On channel. Walton has stated in his online introduction to his radio show column that he enjoys going to concerts alone because then he has fewer things in between him and reaching the omega point that all concert goers seek at shows.

Walton still has a committed relationship with the Celtics, if not professionally, as a fan. Despite the area where he grew up, and the team his son Luke plays for, Walton is careful to point out, "Even though I grew up in the heart of Laker country, the Celtics were always MY team". He also keeps a picture of the floor of the old Boston Garden in his kitchen.

Walton currently resides in his hometown of San Diego with his wife Lori. He and his first wife, Susie, have four sons: Adam, Nathan, Luke, and Chris.

In popular culture

Walton is mentioned in the comedy film Airplane!. In one scene, a boy is invited into the cockpit of a jetliner, and claims that the co-pilot (played by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is in fact Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar, playing in character, denies being the basketball star, insisting instead that he is merely Captain Roger Murdock, the plane's co-pilot. The boy then states that he thinks Kareem is great, but that his father thinks the Lakers great "doesn't work hard on defense..." and that he "doesn't try... except during the playoffs". This causes Abdul-Jabbar to snarl "the hell I don't", followed by "Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes". [1]

Further reading

  • Heisler, Mark (2003). Giants: The 25 Greatest Centers of All Time. Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-577-1. 

Notes

1. ^ Everybody Loves The Big Red-Head: Bill Walton
2. ^ [2] retrieved December 17, 2006
3. ^ [3]
4. ^ 1970 USA Basketball
5. ^ [4]
6. ^ Love, Matt (2007). Red Hot and Rollin': A Retrospection of the Portland Trail Blazers' 1976-77 NBA Championship Season. Pacific City, Oregon: Nestucca Spit Press, 119. 9780974436487. 
7. ^ [5] retrieved February 28, 2007

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Preceded by
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NCAA Basketball Tournament
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1972–1973
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Preceded by
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    Luke Theodore Walton (born March 28 1980 in San Diego, California) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). His position is small forward.
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