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Bill Walton

William Theodore Walton III (born November 5, 1952) is an American retired basketball player and television sportscaster. Walton became known playing for John Wooden's powerhouse UCLA Bruins in the early 1970s, winning three successive College Player of the Year Awards, while leading the Bruins to two national titles. He then went on to have a prominent career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) where he was a league Most Valuable Player (MVP) and won two NBA championships. His professional career was significantly hampered by multiple foot injuries. Walton was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on May 10, 1993[1] and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame that same year.

Bill Walton
Bill Walton 8-26-08.JPG
Walton in 2008
Personal information
Born (1952-11-05) November 5, 1952 (age 66)
La Mesa, California
Listed height6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)
Listed weight210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High schoolHelix (La Mesa, California)
CollegeUCLA (1971–1974)
NBA draft1974 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall
Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers
Playing career1974–1987
Number32, 5
Career history
19741978Portland Trail Blazers
19791985San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers
19851987Boston Celtics
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points6,215 (13.3 ppg)
Rebounds4,923 (10.5 rpg)
Blocks1,034 (2.2 bpg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006


Early life and college careerEdit

Walton during the 1974 season

Walton was born in La Mesa, California, the son of Gloria Anne (née Hickey) and William Theodore "Ted" Walton. His listed adult playing height was 6 feet 11 inches; it has been reported that Walton is actually taller (7 feet 2 inches, or more) but does not like being categorized as a seven-footer.[2][3]

He played high school basketball at Helix High School.[4] At age 17, Walton played for the United States men's national basketball team at the 1970 FIBA World Championship.[5] 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 Walton made 21 of 22 field goal attempts and scored 44 points, representing more than half his team's total.

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. He was the backbone of two consecutive 30–0 seasons and was also part of UCLA's NCAA men's basketball record 88-game winning streak. The UCLA streak contributed to a personal winning streak that lasted almost five years, in which Walton's high school, UCLA freshman (freshmen were ineligible for the varsity at that time) and UCLA varsity teams did not lose a game from the middle of his junior year of high school to the middle of his senior year in college.

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.[6] In Walton's senior year during the 1973–74 season, the school's 88-game winning streak ended with a 71–70 loss to Notre Dame. During the same season, UCLA's record seven consecutive national titles was broken when North Carolina State defeated the Bruins 80–77 in double overtime in the NCAA semi-finals. With Walton's graduation in 1974 and Bruin coach John Wooden's retirement after UCLA's 1975 national title, the UCLA dynasty came to an end.

Prior to joining the varsity team, Walton (18.1 ppg, 68.6% field goal accuracy), along with Greg Lee (17.9 ppg) and Keith Wilkes (20.0 ppg), was a member of the 20–0 UCLA freshman team.[7]

NBA careerEdit

Portland Trail BlazersEdit

Walton in 1975

On leaving college, Walton was drafted by the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Association[8] and also taken as the number one overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1974 NBA draft[8] and was hailed as the savior of the Portland franchise. He signed with the Trail Blazers but 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.

Walton and Jack Ramsay holding the 1977 NBA championship trophy

It was not until the 1976–77 season that he was healthy enough to play 65 games 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 that season, and he 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 postseason, Walton led Portland to a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals (arguably holding his own against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the series)[9] and went on to help the Trail Blazers to the NBA title 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 nonetheless won the league MVP that season (1978) and the Sporting News NBA MVP, as well. 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 returned to action for the playoffs, but was reinjured in the second game of a series 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 offseason, 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 NBA season in protest, signing with the San Diego Clippers when he became a free agent in 1979.[10]

San Diego ClippersEdit

Walton spent more time on the disabled list than on the court with his hometown San Diego Clippers. He only played 14 games for the Clippers during the 1979–80 season before missing all of the next two seasons, undergoing several reconstructive surgeries on his injured foot. Following extensive rehabilitation, Walton's foot began to improve; after playing only 14 games from 1979 to 1982, he played 33 games in 1982–83, 55 games in 1983–84, and a then-career-high 67 in 1984–85, by which time the Clippers had relocated to Los Angeles.

Boston CelticsEdit

Michael Cooper watches as Walton grabs a rebound during the 1987 NBA Finals

After the 1984–85 campaign, Walton called on two of the league's premier teams, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. After several players on the Celtics said they liked the idea of having Walton as a teammate backing up Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, Red Auerbach made the deal happen. One anecdote that particularly illustrates Walton's decision to choose the Celtics over the Lakers involves Larry Bird, who happened to be in Auerbach's office when Walton called. Bird 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. Providing a reliable backup to McHale and Parish, Walton played in a career-high 80 games and received the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award that season en route to the NBA championship, becoming the only player to have ever won an NBA Finals MVP, Sixth Man Award, and regular season MVP.

Walton injured himself again the following season, but returned for the 1987 playoffs. He spent the 1987–88 season on the injured list. He attempted a comeback in February 1990, but injury intervened and he retired from the game.[11]

NBA career statisticsEdit

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Denotes seasons in which Walton won an NBA championship
* Led the league

Regular seasonEdit

1974–75 Portland 35 32.9 .513 .686 12.6 4.8 .8 2.7 12.8
1975–76 Portland 51 33.1 .471 .583 13.4 4.3 1.0 1.6 16.1
1976–77 Portland 65 34.8 .528 .697 14.4* 3.8 1.0 3.2* 18.6
1977–78 Portland 58 33.3 .522 .720 13.2 5.0 1.0 2.5 18.9
1979–80 San Diego 14 24.1 .503 .593 9.0 2.4 .6 2.7 13.9
1982–83 San Diego 33 32 33.3 .528 .556 9.8 3.6 1.0 3.6 14.1
1983–84 San Diego 55 46 26.8 .556 .000 .597 8.7 3.3 .8 1.6 12.1
1984–85 L.A. Clippers 67 37 24.6 .521 .000 .680 9.0 2.3 .7 2.1 10.1
1985–86 Boston 80 2 19.3 .562 .713 6.8 2.1 .5 1.3 7.6
1986–87 Boston 10 0 11.2 .385 .533 3.1 .9 .1 1.0 2.8
Career 468 117 28.3 .521 .000 .660 10.5 3.4 .8 2.2 13.3
All-Star 1 1 31.0 .429 1.000 10.0 2.0 3.0 2.0 15.0


1977 Portland 19 39.7 .507 .684 15.2 5.5 1.1 3.4 18.2
1978 Portland 2 24.5 .611 .714 11.0 2.0 1.5 1.5 13.5
1986 Boston 16 0 18.2 .581 .000 .826 6.4 1.7 .4 .8 7.9
1987 Boston 12 0 8.5 .480 .357 2.6 .8 .3 0.3 2.4
Career[8] 49 0 24.4 .525 .000 .673 9.1 3.0 .7 1.7 10.8

After retirementEdit

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 painkillers by the doctor who was assigned to his case.[citation needed] 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. In a June 8, 2010 interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Walton admitted to contemplating suicide for a time due to the constant pain resulting from injuries sustained during his NBA career.[12] Walton's injuries, along with his 1978–1979 year-long protest, gave him an unpleasant, if not odd, record of missing the most games during an NBA playing career, when taking into account the number of years he was officially listed as a player on a team roster.[citation needed]


Walton was inducted into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. Walton also had his number 32 retired by the Blazers in 1989. His number 32 was also retired by UCLA, in a joint ceremony with fellow basketball legend, number 33, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He is also enshrined in the UCLA Hall of Fame. In 1996, he was named as one of the NBA's 50 greatest players of all time. He was added to the San Diego Hall of Champions in 1990.

Awards and honorsEdit

Walton guarding the Pistons' Curtis Rowe in 1976. Coincidentally, the two players were only a few years apart at UCLA.


After his retirement as a player, Walton overcame a stuttering problem[13] to become a successful and controversial NBA color commentator for CBS (1990), NBC (1990–2002), the Los Angeles Clippers (1990–2002) and ABC/ESPN (2002–2009). After nineteen years working in broadcasting, he left ESPN in November 2009, as the result of back problems dating back to an injury suffered while playing at UCLA. Following surgery on his back, Walton returned to broadcasting as a part-time commentator for the Sacramento Kings for 2010–11 and 2011–12.

In July 2012, ESPN and the Pac-12 Network announced that he would return to full-time broadcasting as a game analyst for Pac-12 basketball coverage, starting with the 2012–13 season. [14] Walton usually works alongside Dave Pasch while calling Pac-12 basketball games on ESPN. His commentary has been noted for his frequent use of catchphrases and hyperbole. Walton typically was paired with Steve "Snapper" Jones for national NBA games because he and Jones had a point-counterpoint banter during games.[15] Despite their frequent on-air argumentative banter they were friends, as was shown in Walton's short-lived 2003 TV series Bill Walton's Long Strange Trip.


His memoir, Back from the Dead: Searching for the Sound, Shining the Light and Throwing It Down, was released by Simon and Schuster in March 2016.[16] It remained on The New York Times bestseller list for two weeks in April 2016.[17]

Walton, who has a service dog,[18] wrote the foreword to the 2015 book Unconditional Honor: Wounded Warriors and their Dogs by author Cathy Scott.[19]

Personal lifeEdit

Walton currently resides in his hometown of San Diego with his wife Lori. He and his first wife, Susie, had four sons: Adam, Nathan, Luke, and Chris. Luke played from 2003 to 2012 for the Los Angeles Lakers, won both the 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals, making Bill and Luke the first father-son pair to have both won multiple NBA championships. Luke was named head coach of the Lakers on April 29, 2016, after two years as an assistant for the Golden State Warriors. Another of Walton's sons, Chris, played for San Diego State. Nate, his middle son, played basketball at Princeton but then entered the corporate world and earned his MBA from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. (Bill Walton attended Stanford Law School for two years but never graduated.) Nate was on the ballot for the 2003 California Recall Election, receiving 1,697 votes. Walton's other son, Adam, also played NCAA basketball at Louisiana State University.

Known as a vegetarian and a meditation practitioner,[20] Walton is a fan of the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band, Neil Young, Phish, and Bob Dylan. Walton is particularly attached to the Grateful Dead, whose concerts he started attending in 1967, while he was still in high school.[21] He attended more than 850[22] Grateful Dead concerts, including traveling with the band to Egypt for its famous 1978 performance before the Pyramids (joining the band on drums),[23] and quotes Grateful Dead lyrics in TV and radio interviews. To fellow Deadheads, Walton is fondly known as "Grateful Red" and the "Big Red Deadhead" and "World's Tallest Deadhead".[24][25][26] In the video for "Touch of Grey", Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart is wearing a Celtics jacket that was given to him by Walton.[citation needed] In 2001, Walton was inducted into The Grateful Dead Hall of Honor.[27] While broadcasting a game between the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans, Walton talked about a speech Dylan gave at MusiCares, and ESPN actually had prepared graphics about Dylan's career highlights.[28]

Walton also considers himself a fan and friend of the late writer Ken Kesey. In 2015, he made a visit to the Ken Kesey Collection while on a stop at the University of Oregon.[29]

Walton expounds upon his music interests on his own satellite radio show, One More Saturday Night (named after the Dead song of the same name), heard during late prime time on Sirius Radio's Jam On and XM Radio's Grateful Dead 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.

In 1990, Walton was inducted by the San Diego Hall of Champions into the Breitbard Hall of Fame honoring San Diego's finest athletes both on and off the playing surface.[30]

In popular cultureEdit

Walton has cameo appearances in the films 88 and 1, Celtic Pride, Little Nicky and Semi-Pro, and appeared as Sven the Wise in the 2011 Capital One Visigoth SportsNet commercials. He is also mentioned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 comedy Airplane! ("Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!")

Bill Walton is a playable character in the video games NBA Street Vol. 2 (2003), NBA Street V3 (2005), NBA 2K12 (2011), NBA 2K13 (2012), NBA 2K14 (2013), NBA 2K15 (2014), NBA 2K16 (2015) and NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (2011), and lent his voice to NBA 2K5 and NBA Shootout 2004.

Walton appeared in an episode of the reality TV show Shark Tank on January 20, 2012, where he helped to sell the "Clean Bottle", a water bottle that unscrews at both ends for easier cleaning.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "William "Bill" Walton Biography". December 5, 2006. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  2. ^ Araton, Harvey (June 8, 1994). "ON PRO BASKETBALL; Feet of Dancer, Touch of Surgeon, and a Shot, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  3. ^ "Best Basketball Players Over 6-6". Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  4. ^ Salas, Dagny (March 8, 2010). "The Next Reinvention of Bill Walton". Archived from the original on November 17, 2010. Retrieved November 16, 2010.
  5. ^ "USA Basketball: Men's World Championship Team History -- 1970". August 24, 2007. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  6. ^ "NCAA Basketball Tourney History - CBS". CBS Sports Line. February 24, 2007. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  7. ^ 1972 Official Collegiate Basketball Guide, College Athletics Publishing Service, 1971
  8. ^ a b c "Bill Walton Past Stats, Playoff Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards". November 5, 1952. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  9. ^ "L.a. Couldn't Move The Mountain". CNN. May 23, 1977. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  10. ^ 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. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-9744364-8-7.
  11. ^ Hilton, Lisette. "ESPN Classic - Walton weathered injuries to win titles". Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  12. ^ "Walton talks about painful periods in life, Wooden, NBA finals". Archived from the original on June 13, 2010. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  13. ^ Jordan, Pat (October 28, 2001). "Bill Walton's Inside Game". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  14. ^ "Hiestand: Bill Walton talks about his return to ESPN". USA Today. July 16, 2012.
  15. ^ Curtis, Bryan (June 12, 2002). "Bill Walton, Broadcasting Genius". Slate.
  16. ^ "BACK FROM THE DEAD by Bill Walton – Kirkus Reviews".
  17. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - April 17, 2016 - The New York Times".
  18. ^ "NBA Legend Bill Walton's Career Advice: 'You Cannot Finish Unless You Start'". ABC News. March 25, 2016.
  19. ^ "Author To Lecture And Sign Book About Wounded Warriors And Their Dogs".
  20. ^ "Sport: Walton: Basketball's Vegetarian Tiger". TIME. February 25, 1974. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  21. ^ Varga, George. "Bill Walton has seen the Dead 850+ times". Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  22. ^ Edgers, Geoff (June 12, 2015). "The strange story of Grateful Dead's path to the summer's hottest ticket" – via
  23. ^ Hilton, Lisette (September 25, 2000). Walton hit the boards. ESPN. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
  25. ^ "Basketball legend and very tall Deadhead Bill Walton to write a book". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  26. ^ "World's tallest Deadhead can't contain his excitement". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  27. ^ Administrator. "Grateful Dead Hall of Honor". Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  28. ^ Rodger Sherman (February 12, 2015). "Bill Walton talked about Bob Dylan on air for 3 whole minutes of a basketball game". Vox Media.
  29. ^ "Basketball Legend Bill Walton and Kesey's Merry Pranksters Visit UO Libraries SCUA". Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  30. ^ "San Diego Hall of Champions » Bill Walton". San Diago Hall of Champions. January 3, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2018.

Further readingEdit

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

External linksEdit