Basketball legend Bill Walton is one of sports’ most recognizable and beloved figures. His success on the court is well-documented; the nation’s top college basketball star at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden, he then played for two NBA Championship teams – the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics. But Walton’s nightmarish challenges off the court are less known. He stuttered so badly he couldn’t say a simple “thank you” until he was 28 years old. And a foot disorder led to 37 surgeries on his feet, legs, and back – keeping him sidelined over half of his NBA career. Armed with grit and a positive outlook, Walton improbably overcame it all. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and named to the “50 Greatest NBA Players of All-Time” list. After his playing career, Walton pursued broadcasting; he is currently covering Pac-12 games on ESPN. Walton has led a life of humility in service of inspiring others. His autobiography, "Back from the Dead," was a New York Times bestseller and he is perhaps the best-known Deadhead, having seen over 1,000 shows.
As entertaining as he is insightful, Walton is widely considered one of the best speakers from the world of sports. The lessons he learned on the basketball court became life lessons that served him well throughout his sports, broadcasting, and business careers. No lesson was more important than the words from the legendary John Wooden, Walton’s basketball coach at UCLA, who simply said “Do your best.” Wooden never asked players to go out and win – simply to do their best and not beat themselves. Walton never forgot those words which helped him throughout his extraordinary career.
Following a celebrated college basketball career, Walton went on to have a Hall of Fame NBA career. After basketball, he pursued his dream job as a sports broadcaster – but first had to overcome the lifelong stuttering affliction. And then, in 2008, Walton endured risky back surgery to repair damage done early in his basketball career. Through it all, his determination and positive attitude carried him through.
Walton is an authentic and true original who personifies greatness and is one of the most compassionate figures in sports with an extraordinary record of giving back through his work with numerous charities and non-profits.
Walton was introduced to the game of basketball while in the fourth grade at Blessed Sacrament Elementary School. He then attended Helix High School, where his team won the California Interscholastic Federation High School title two years in a row, while winning their final 49 consecutive games. While at Helix, Walton became the first and only high school player to ever make the U.S.A. Senior Men’s National Basketball Team and play in the World Championship and/or Olympics.
Walton enrolled at UCLA in 1970. He played center for John Wooden's varsity team for three seasons (1972-1974), after a year with the freshman team in 1971. He was a member of two NCAA championship teams compiling an NCAA record for an 88 consecutive game winning streak.
Walton is a three-time NCAA Player of the Year Award recipient, three-time All-American College Player, and winner of the Sullivan Award for the United States Best Amateur Athlete of 1973. Walton was named to the Pacific 8 All-Conference first team three times and was conference player of the year for three consecutive years. At UCLA, Walton was a scholar-athlete who also earned Academic All-American honors three years in a row. He graduated with honors with a B.A. in history. Walton also attended Stanford University Graduate School of Law in the early 1980's.
Walton’s professional career began when he was the number one overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers. He was a member of their championship team in 1977. Nine years later he earned another championship title, this time with the Boston Celtics in 1986. He played with the Trailblazers 1974-1979, the San Diego Clippers 1979-1984, the relocated Los Angeles Clippers in 1985 and The Boston Celtics 1985-1988.
Walton was the NBA's Most Valuable Player, 1978; All-NBA First Team, 1978; NBA All-Star Team, 1977 and 1978; NBA Playoff's MVP, 1977; All-NBA second team, 1977; winner of the NBA Sixth Man Award, 1986. Walton is one of only four players in the history of basketball to have won multiple NCAA and multiple NBA Championships. He is also the second of only five players in the history of the NBA to lead the league in both blocked shots and rebounding in the same season. In 1991 Walton received the NBPA’s Oscar Robertson Leadership Awards. In 1993 he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1997 Walton was selected as one of the NBA’s Fifty Greatest Players of All Time. Also, in 1997 he was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.
After retiring from basketball Walton began his broadcasting career in 1990 as an analyst for the then Prime Ticket Network. Walton worked for CBS Sports in the early 90’s and then for NBC for many years, including work on the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games. Over his career he’s also done broadcasting work for ABC, ESPN, FOX, MSNBC, Turner Sports, KCAL, NESA and the NBA. Walton has been nominated for numerous Emmy Awards and in 2001 won an Emmy for Best Live Sports Television Broadcast. The southern California Sports Broadcasters Association has several times honored Walton with the Best Television Analyst/Commentator Award. In 2009, he was named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all time by the American Sportscasters Association.
In June 21, 2001, Walton was named as the inaugural inductee into the Grateful Dead Hall of Honor.
Love of sports runs in the Walton’s family. He and his older brother Bruce (UCLA 1973) are the only brother combination in history to have played in the Super Bowl and to have won an NBA Championship. Walton and his third son Luke are only the third father/son pairing to have ever won NBA Championships. They are also the only father/son combination in history to have each won multiple NBA Championships.
Walton is active with many organizations and charities. For his efforts, in 2002 he received the NBA Retired Players Association Humanitarian Award. He is executive chairman of Connect SD Sport Innovators (SDSI), a non-profit, business-accelerating, trade organization that connects and drives the growth of Southern California's vibrant sports economy by offering innovative programs and services for startups, mature companies and service providers. Walton is also a board member for the Junior Seau foundation. Walton is also involved in numerous Internet ventures, providing content and business acumen.
Walton is author of "Back from the Dead" and "Nothing but Net." He currently resides in his hometown of San Diego with his wife Lori. They are the proud parents of four sons: Adam, Nathan, Luke and Chris, and the lucky grandparents of Olivia, Chase, Parker, Avery, Patrick, Lawson, Landon, Wilhelmina, and Wolfgang.
LIFE HAPPENS - STAYING JOYFUL IS A CHOICE
Disappointment and troubles are a part of life. But whatever happens to us - remaining joyful is a choice. Bill Walton knows something about that topic. 39 orthopedic surgeries, half his NBA career spent on the injured list, unable to utter two words together without stuttering until he was 28, overcoming that lifelong stutter in order to pursue his dream career of sports broadcaster…it’s been quite a journey for Bill. He could have lost hope but the famed humanitarian and Deadhead (over 1,200 shows seen) is a man who lives by the mantra – “things work out best for people who make the best of the way things work out.” Bill inspires audiences to keep perspective and cultivate the habit of finding joy in the simple things. In fact, his story of resilience and positivity is the theme of the multi-episode ESPN 30 for 30 bio documentary called 'The Luckiest Guy in the World.' Audiences will walk away feeling inspired by Bill's example and motivated to choose joy in their own lives, no matter what life throws their way.
THE POWER OF POSITIVE
At 6’ 11” in his Grateful Dead tie-dyed t-shirt, Bill Walton is one of the most recognizable and colorful sports legends ever. He’s also among the most upbeat and positive people you’ll ever meet. It’s a mindset he’s cultivated and credits for his ability to adapt, persevere, and ultimately succeed in his challenges on and off the court. Named one of “50 Greatest NBA Players of All Time,” Bill incredibly missed 9½ of his 14 NBA seasons due to injuries related to undiagnosed congenital foot problems. Despite that, his achievements on the court were enormous. When his storied career ended with his 30th surgery, Bill’s dream was to pursue sports broadcasting. One problem: a severe lifelong stutter that prevented him from even saying a simple "thank you." Undeterred, Bill set about the task of learning to speak. He conquered stuttering and found a place behind the mic - earning numerous awards and honors since. Bill’s greatest test came in 2007 when severe back pain confined him to the floor of his home for 2½ years. Finally relenting to surgery in 2009, the grueling rehab and recovery from that 37th surgery could well be Bill’s biggest achievement. While Bill exclaims regularly, "I'm the luckiest guy on Earth," it's clear his outlook on life helped create that luck. Bill Walton loves to inspire audiences with tales about the power of positive.
Tales of Healing and Recovery
Bill Walton is the most-injured player in NBA history. In his 14-year career he missed a total of 9 1/2 full seasons due to injury. In spite of that, he went on to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Imagine what influence he would have had on the game had he stayed healthy! Bill’s feet, knees, and back – the foundation of his ability to perform as an athlete – let him down. 37 surgeries! His last surgery was his most serious — to straighten a lifetime of abuse to his spine. Leading up to that surgery Bill spent three years on the floor of his home in agonizing pain – virtually unable to move. Bill speaks to health care audiences of all sorts and reminds them of the tremendous difference they make in the lives of patients, like him. Bill has also spoken to spinal patient groups to offer hope for the future. Bill’s uplifting story of triumph against the odds is an inspiration to all. As Bill says about his life – “I am the luckiest guy on earth.”
Leadership Lessons From The Court
Bill Walton played for some of the greatest coaches in basketball – Red Auerbach, Jack Ramsay and the legendary John Wooden. Then, Walton’s broadcasting career allowed him the chance to see great championship performers and coaches in action. The consummate storyteller, Bill shares tales that are as insightful as they are entertaining – he provides an inside look at how world-class performance is really achieved on the basketball court. The leadership lessons are based on important principles that transfer off the court, too.
Do Your Best
Three words drive Bill Walton’s philosophy of life – do your best. They were drawn from the legendary John Wooden, Bill’s basketball coach at UCLA, who never asked the players on his record-breaking teams to win – only to go out and do their best and not beat themselves. The lessons of Coach Wooden – about character, work ethic, teamwork, accountability, and pride for a job well done – stuck with Walton his whole life – on the court, in the broadcast booth and beyond. Bill Walton inspires people to do their best with incredible stories from an improbable and remarkable life.
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