Playing the Field: Bill Walton is back!
There was a time in my life when I didn’t appreciate the great Bill Walton’s color commentary on NBA games. This was a dark period in my life we will no longer speak of in public.
Now, everything can return to tie-dyed greatness as Walton returns to the mic, calling Pac-12 games (and some West Coast NBA games) for ESPN. The world’s biggest (literally and figuratively) Deadhead retired from broadcasting after his back gave out and he spent three years going through surgeries and rehabilitation. Walton’s NBA career was derailed by numerous foot and back injuries as well, so it’s nice to see him healthy enough to get back to traveling.
More than anything, it’ll be nice to have a reason to watch the worst major conference in the nation play some basketball. (Seriously, their regular season champion didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last year.) Yet again we’ll get to hear “Throw it down, big fella” on a regular basis.
“My knees, hands and wrists don’t work,” Walton told USA Today yesterday. “Other than that, everything is fine. I’m doing great. I’m starting over. I’m excited as can be about tomorrow. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
Luckiest guy in the world?! This guy has had 36 (!) surgeries in his life. His spine and ankles are fused together. You have to admire his positivity at the very least.
If you don’t remember what it was like to listen to Walton on games, here’s a sampling:
Yep, that just happened.
And his analysis of the Pau Gasol — the “anti-Kwame Brown” — to the Lakers trade:
(You’ll also notice how much better Walton’s commentary — and Rick Carlisle’s — is compared to the vapid yelling of the clown in the middle.)
There used to be a highlight package of Walton on YouTube that was one of my favorite videos ever, which is saying a lot. It was taken down at some point, but it’s worth remembering how great a player he was. He was the greatest college player of all-time. He averaged 20.3 points and 15.7 rebounds per game in his UCLA career, and won two titles and two Player of the Year awards of course.
It’s unfortunate he was never really healthy in his NBA career. His only remotely healthy season — when Portland won the NBA title in 1977 — he went for 18.6 points, 14.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. Nobody has had 18/14/3 since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1989-90 when he had 24.3/14.0/4.6. (Shaquille O’Neal had 23.4/13.9/3.5 in 1992-93.)
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports. He noticed 61 percent of people picked the Patriots to win Super Bowl XLII according to the bottomline on that Gasol video. They were wrong.