ESPN Network: | | | | ABCSports | EXPN | INSIDER | FANTASY   

Walton weathered injuries to win

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Walton hit the boards
By Lisette Hilton
Special to

Signature Game

March 26, 1973 - In the NCAA Tournament final in St. Louis, Bill Walton had the game of his life. No matter how Memphis State attempted to defense him, Walton found a way to beat it.

Driving one-on-one, hitting jump shots, guiding teammates' lob passes into the basketball, Walton scored 44 points, breaking Gail Goodrich's NCAA championship game record of 42. Incredibly, Walton missed only one of 22 field-goal attempts. (From the foul line, he was 2-of-5.)

The game was tied at 39 at halftime before UCLA, led by Walton, blew away Memphis State in the second half to coast to an 87-66 victory. Walton finished with a game-high 13 rebounds as the Bruins won their seventh consecutive NCAA title.

"He [Walton] is about as physical a big man as I've ever seen," Memphis State coach Gene Bartow said. "He did so many things so well that we just couldn't stop him. He's super - the best collegiate player I've ever seen. We played him wrong. We tried three or four things, but I guess we didn't try the right one. If you let him have the ball, he'll kill you."

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Walton's injuries started early. In high school, he broke an ankle, a leg and many bones in his feet. He also underwent knee surgery.

  • Walton joined a San Diego AAU team coached by a distant uncle after his final game at Helix High School. The team lost in the national championships.

  • Walton didn't play in the 1972 Summer Games because the U.S, Olympic Committee wouldn't guarantee him comfortable accommodations. Years later, a more mature Walton said he wished he had played.

  • In the final seconds of the 71-70 loss to Notre Dame that ended UCLA's 88-game winning streak in 1974, Walton missed a 12-footer with seconds left. It was only his second misfire in 14 field-goal attempts.

  • Walton, Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson and Virginia's Ralph Sampson are the only ones to be voted NCAA Division 1 Player of the Year three times.

  • While at Portland, Walton was known to only talk with reporters who would put him in a favorable light. He had a reputation for being cocky, even to the team's coaching staff.

  • Walton played in only one NBA All-Star Game, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 31 minutes in 1978. He had been selected for the 1977 game, but didn't play because of injury.

  • In the 1977-78 season, Walton attempted, after being sidelined with a foot injury, to return in the playoffs against the Seattle SuperSonics. He suffered a break below his left ankle in Game 2 and the Trail Blazers lost the Western Conference semifinal series in six games.

  • The Celtics acquired Walton in 1985 by sending forward Cornbread Maxwell and a first-round draft pick to the Clippers.

  • Boston fans were happy to have the aging Walton. They gave him a one-minute standing ovation at Boston Garden before his first exhibition game with the team.

  • During the 1985-86 season, which was Walton's healthiest in his NBA career, he did suffer a broken nose - his 13th broken nose.

  • In 1987, Larry Bird hurt his elbow and when asked how it felt, replied, "I don't think I have the Bill Walton syndrome yet."

  • Walton was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. He says that while it's true that he averaged only 33 games and 13.3 points in the NBA, he says that "nobody cherished playing ball more."

  • In 1994, Walton was inducted into the GTE Academic All-America Hall of Fame. To be eligible, an athlete must have been a GTE Academic All-America team member with a cumulative grade point average of 3.00.

  • A Grateful Dead fan, Walton was a friend of the group's drummer, Mickey Hart. He once played drums with the Dead at a show in Egypt.

  • Walton and his second wife Lori Matsuoka met at a party organized by the Dead.

  • Walton and his first wife Susie divorced in 1989. They had four sons.

  • The three youngest played Division I basketball in 2001: Luke with Arizona, Nate with Princeton and Chris with San Diego State.

  • The oldest son, Adam, played at LSU and the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, Calif.

  • Walton says that thanks to basketball, he was able to overcome his shyness and stuttering. However, the stuttering didn't disappear until Walton was 28.

  • Walton has been broadcasting Los Angeles Clippers games since 1991 and has been an announcer for NBC since 1992.

    Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories