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December 06, 2001

Fans can learn from Walton
By Dan Patrick

Basketball legend Bill Walton has been taking a lot heat lately for his work as a broadcaster on CBS' coverage of the NCAA Tournament. Well, I am in the minority. I think Walton brings a lot to the table. Hoops fans need to listen to what he says rather than worry about how he says it.

Walton is one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He won championships with UCLA, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Boston Celtics. His colleagues have included John Wooden, Maurice Lucas, Jack Ramsay, Larry Bird and Red Auerbach. His perspective on the game is invaluable, and his expertise is evident.

Walton is a connoisseur of basketball. He is like an art critic who knows the difference between great art and finger painting (and he's not afraid to point it out).

I admit Walton can sound a bit pompous or dismissive when he is criticizing a team, a ref or players. Everybody's imitation of him involves using the word "horrible" but pronouncing it as "horrrribble." But Walton is a connoisseur of basketball. He played it on the highest level and appreciates it that way too. He is like an art critic who knows the difference between great art and finger painting. And he's not afraid to point it out.

I'd tell Walton's critics to just listen to the content of his remarks rather than get hung up on his delivery. He is not afraid to criticize or praise. He is a refreshing voice, in my opinion. He doesn't think everybody is great or that everybody stinks. He just says what he thinks, like Howard Cosell did.

A lot of the guff aimed at Walton has been about his call of the Arizona game against Illinois. Walton's son, Luke, plays for Arizona. Bob Griese set an awfully high standard when he called the Rose Bowl a few years ago with his son, Brian, starting at quarterback for Michigan.

But let's be real: Walton essentially ignored his son and really did not praise him at all. But how would any of us do in the same spot? If he seemed to be favoring Arizona, so what? They were playing better and ended up winning the game. That's how Walton does a basketball game. He praises the team that has it together and criticizes the team that is not having a good day.

James Worthy once said "we" in reference to a North Carolina game he was working. Again, I say "so what?" Does anybody think Worthy is a closet Maryland fan?

This just in: Worthy likes the Lakers too.

We are talking about basketball games, not the presidential election results in Florida. Relax and enjoy Bill Walton. Listen to what he has to say. You'll learn something.

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2001 NCAA Tournament Special Section

Dan Patrick page: 2001 archive

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John Wooden looks back at Bill Walton during his college years.
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