Bill Walton Rumors

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It would take X-ray vision to recognize most of Bird’s acts of charity. He prefers an under-the-table approach – or on-the-table, when necessary. He tries to keep it quiet. No press releases, no press conferences, no speeches, nothing … unless there’s a benefit to that as well. That’s why Bird participated in One Legendary Night Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Masquerade’s annual fund-raising banquet for the Simon Youth Foundation and Pacers Foundation. He might have preferred to stay home with his family, but duty called. “I don’t necessarily like to get up and speak,” he said beforehand. “But tonight I’m going to get up and talk about Bill Walton, and that’s going to be fun,” he added, laughing.
“Roy’s never asked us to go bring someone in,” Bird, the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, said. “I always say big guys are different. I would encourage Roy to try to get with one of the greats. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the best teachers. Bill Walton is great. They know how to play the position as well as anyone ever has. I would encourage that.”
Fairweather, a former ESPN producer and radio co-host, found Love to be so interested in Celtics history that he gave him a 90-minute DVD that details the team’s illustrious past, a gift Fairweather said Love very much appreciated. Love showed such reverence for Bird, Fairweather said, that at one point Love pointed out how he believes that Bird’s No. 33 ought to be retired by every team in the NBA. Love also said he planned on talking to fellow UCLA alumnus Bill Walton about what it was like playing for the Celtics.
After all the surgeries, he missed three of the next four years, so you can understand why Walton has empathy for what the NBA has gone through lately, this season with Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Al Horford, etc., etc., all missing chunks of games with major injuries. Then there’s Greg Oden, too often compared to Walton and not because they both were celebrated big men selected first overall by the Blazers. “I’ve been there,” Walton said, quietly. “It hurts me to see that, to see them go through, to an extent, what I went through, to know these talented young men must deal with factors beyond their control, and also to see how it has affected a game that I love so much.”
And then in 2009 he found Dr. Steve Garfin, a specialist based near Walton’s home in San Diego. An eight-hour spinal-fusion surgery followed. Two titanium rods and four four-inch bolts were inserted in his back. He couldn’t walk to the hospital and couldn’t walk out. He stayed hospitalized for a week, and then couldn’t move freely for a year after surgery. “A miracle,” is how Walton describes his recovery. He is pain free. “I have the chance to do something with my life again, and the rest is up to me. I can put my energies to projects I’m working on, a book that’s almost complete and my broadcasting duties (Walton does Pac-12 games for ESPN). I’m fully aware of how many people sacrificed for me to have this chance, and so I have a duty and obligation to do something.”
Surgery No. 38 was the worst, by far. How in the hell, after all he went through medically, after being robbed of basketball immortality, after becoming a poster boy for career-ending injuries, does his back suddenly decide to become the biggest pain in the ass? How dare his back keep him off … his feet? But it did, up until five years ago. It caused Walton lots of pain and plunged him into a dark place, and it kept him staring at the ceiling or the carpet for endless days, months and years. It also crossed his mind more than once that this position was slowly preparing him for his coffin. “I thought I was going to die,” he said the other day. “And if I wasn’t going to die naturally, I didn’t think I wanted to live anymore, not in that condition. My life was over. It was that bad.”
When the camera zoomed in on Arenas, Walton offered, “Gilbert lost his mind.” Arenas’ misdeeds, especially during his time with the Washington Wizards, are well-documented. But I’m not sure Walton holds the high ground when making such a comment. For a moment, it seemed Walton had backpedaled enough to move onto the highly competitive game, saying “Life is a series of choices. We wish Gilbert the best.” But then he continued, “We love Gilbert. He used to wake up, and he would be on our living room couch.” Finally, play-by-play man Dave Pasch interjected: “Let’s save the rest of the story for off air.”
Walton is aware that his father, Bill Walton, who has been broadcasting professionally for more than 20 years, already established a reputation for being barb-tongued, but he thinks his on-air presence will be much different. “I think I have to look at it similar to our playing careers,” Walton said. “When I was coming up through the ranks in high school and people were always comparing him to me, I used to struggle with it until I just made the decision, ‘Look, I’m playing. This is who I am. This is what I do and I’m playing this game for me.’ I think that’s what I’ll have to do in broadcasting or television as well because our personalities are completely different. “I mean, I used to bring the guy in to talk at my camps and tell him he had an hour, and an hour and 45 minutes later we’re literally physically taking him off the court like, ‘We have to get camp going.’ And that’s not me. I don’t want to talk for an hour and a half.”
One of those players is Damian Lillard, whose play during one of the most successful rookie campaigns in Trail Blazers history has raised expectations for the upcoming season. Walton said that Lillard reminds him of two of his former teammates, both in the way he plays and how he carries himself. “Fun, a real fun player,” said Walton of Lillard. “I remember running with Bobby (Gross) and Lionel (Hollins), how fun it was, what special players they were and really are. Damian is a lot like that because yes, he’s got a dazzling game, but really it’s his personality, the same thing that defines any great talent. He has a personality and a dynamism about him that inspires, rallies and ultimately builds communities. We’re very hopefully and we’re extremely confident about him and his chances to lead this team to the Promised Land.”
“With success, with privilege comes responsibility, duty and opportunity,” Walton said. About 70 percent of the population experiences some kind of back pain at some point in their life, he says. “Because I’ve gotten all better, I have a responsibility (to educate and advocate).” The Mayo Clinic estimates that one in 10 Americans suffers from the effects of chronic back pain, which translates to more than 500,000 Coloradans. Experts say one factor is chronic pain and a feeling of hopelessness. “I spend hours every day on the phone, face-to-face and on the Internet with people convincing them that there is a better way back into the game of life because suicide is a huge problem with spine patients,” Walton said.
One of the most dominant big men in college and professional basketball for nearly two decades, Bill Walton finally came up against an opponent in 2007 that very nearly took him out of the game of life. Walton says his spine “failed and collapsed.” During the next two years, the now 60-year-old counterculture hoops hero from the ’70s – who estimates he’s attended 835 Grateful Dead shows – says he was in so much pain he actually would have been grateful to be dead. “Spine issues are one of the leading factors in our suicide problem because it’s just so hard, and this has been the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life,” Walton said. “I was terrified.”
For the past few years, Pacers center Roy Hibbert has spent time during his summer working out with some of the all-time great big men in NBA history. Three years ago, it was Hall of Famer center Bill Walton. More recently, it has been with Tim Duncan — one of the most consistent and talented bigs in the league over the last three decades. Since being drafted No. 1 by the Spurs in 1997, he has led them to incredible success, including four NBA Titles.
BallinEurope would really appreciate it if a native speaker of Japanese could translate the below piece on Nikola Pekovic and the Minnesota Timberwolves which recently ran in the periodical Dunk Shot – but it’s already a great big hunk of awesome. Check out the manga versions of Peks, sharp-angled Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey “Tiny” Shved and the doe-eyed Ricky Rubio (What? No Mickael Gelabale?) doing some kind of super task forcey thing and … is that Bill Walton there in panel four?
How do you do that? I spend a tremendous amount of my time working for the Better Way Back program, an organization that provides support and advocacy for people whose lives have fallen apart because of their spine issues. And it’s just absolutely remarkable what is possible in the world today. When you spend three years on the floor, you have a lot of time to think about what you are going to do if you ever get better. And so that’s why I go around the country. Health is the foundation of everything. Without it, nothing is attainable. It’s an unbelievably emotional moment when I’m on the phone with people I don’t know, that they can do it. They can get through it. People are terrified about spine surgery. My spine surgery was fantastic. I’m all better. I don’t have any pain. A miracle has happened. So when I talk to people on the phone, they’ll often just break down and say, you’re the first person I’ve talked to who knows what it’s like. When you have that unbelievable searing, scorching pain, running through your whole body, you never forget that. People who haven’t felt it have no idea. No idea. Now that I’m all better, the darkness is incomprehensible. But when you’re in that space, and your life is over, it’s very clear.
Basketball great Bill Walton is ready to recap his amazing career and even more amazing recovery. Simon & Schuster announced Wednesday that Walton, 59, is working on a memoir that will come out in the fall of 2013. The book is tentatively called “Back From the Dead.” It will cover everything from Walton’s triumphs with UCLA to his overcoming a stutter and becoming a broadcaster to the collapsed spine that left him hardly able to move for three years. The book will be co-authored by veteran sportswriter John Papanek.
“My spine failed after a lifetime of spine problems,” Walton told USA TODAY Sports by phone Sunday. “My life was over. I spent three years on the floor.” He couldn’t move much and says he sometimes was suicidal. But this season he’ll call ESPN Pac-12 basketball games as ESPN expands its coverage of the league through a new deal. Walton also will join the conference’s soon-to-launch regional network and will return for occasional Sacramento Kings local broadcasts.
On Tuesday, he said he is pain-free, taking no medications and feeling healthier than he has since high school. He has a life again, but a different one. “Your life is never the same again,” he said. “And that’s why I’m here today.” “Here” was the Providence Cancer Center in Northeast Portland, a leading facility in cancer prevention, research and treatment. On Wednesday, Walton, joined by Trail Blazers broadcaster Bill Schonely, will speak at the center’s annual luncheon at the Oregon Convention Center, a role filled in the event’s previous 13 years by such sports luminaries as Cal Ripken Jr., Vivian Stringer and Scott Hamilton. None, though, had the Portland connection of Walton, who led the Blazers to the only NBA title in franchise history in 1977.