Bill Walton, the very unique soul on the basketball court who intimidated his opponents and leaved the fans in awe.
Only people who watched him play in college and later on, in the NBA, know how good he was.
Compared with such players as Kareem, Wilt and Bill Russell, he had a wide array of skills. With his colorful headbands, knee pads and Lincoln-like beard, he was a dominant winning attitude.
But right now you probably can’t find a picture in his house of him dressed up like that because he didn’t know what he was thinking back then.
Bill Walton remembers when he told the guys in Portland that he doesn’t care about money (he only cares about winning) and the he demands that he doesn’t have to shave his beard. In fact, that’s what he liked about the NBA.
He gives a lot of credit to David Stern that he was able to make this special league in a democratic place where everyone can express his individuality.
Growing up, Walton was very shy and reserved kid. Not very communicative because of his stuttering. And not just normal stuttering but he had this ultimate stutter. It wasn’t until he was 28 years old when through therapy he could become a winner of multiple awards as a broadcasting commentator.
His family was not very athletic. Bill’s parents were more into music, literature and art. But when he was 7, his dad took him to a game of basketball. That very day, little Bill decided that he’d play professional basketball.
He turned up to his dad and said… “Dad, when I grow up, I’m gonna play in the NBA, win the MVP award and get myself a new car”. His dad looked at him and went… “What’s an NBA?”
When he started playing basketball he found out that basketball has become his religion and the gym, his church. In college, he played for the UCLA and the legendary coach John Wooden for three years (1972-1974). In those 3 years he was the recipient of the NCAA Player of the Year Award.
Perhaps one of his finest college performances was in 1973 when he made 21 out of 22 shots and scored 44 points. Bill’s pro career started in the Portland Trail Blazers as the first overall pick in the 1974 NBA draft. In his rookie season, he had a chance to show the fans that he was a guy to be reckoned with but sadly, due to injuries, he played only about half a season.
As a matter of fact the injuries started as early as in high school. Cruel severe injuries which were normal for a player like he was. Intense. Bill Walton didn’t get just a sprained ankle but everything from broken bones in the feet to knee surgeries. And they pretty much followed him through his entire 14 year career.
“No one missed more games than I did. I missed full 9 and a half seasons”. But injuries didn’t prevent him to use his competitive character. He knew, that once he started playing, he was on fire. He was on a mission ready to win.
It took him 3 seasons to turn the Portland franchise upside down and inside out. In 1977, not only did he take them to their first ever play off appearance, but they won the championship. In 1985 he joined the Boston Celtics and one year later he won another title. A year later he decided to retire and become active as a commentator.
Kevin McHale remembers that every game was a challenge for Walton. And he made sure that no one forgets that.
In all the years he was playing, he was always looking up to Kareem Abdul Jabbar. In every way. It wasn’t Michael Jordan or Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. The best player was Kareem. Period. Every night he was trying to be somewhat better than him.
My favourite quote of his – “No. You cannot go through life like that. You just try your best with what you have.” – when asked do you regret the fact that your basketball career was cut short due to injuries.
If you like this Bill Walton biography, you might be interested in the following link which is about many more NBA legends…