Letters to Sports: Bill Walton was one of the greatest human beings


Bill Walton during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Arizona.

Bill Walton wears a red wig during an ESPN broadcast of a UCLA-Arizona men’s basketball game in February 2020. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Bill Walton was a life force like no other. He happened to also be one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but that was secondary to being one of the greatest human beings of all time.

Living in Los Angeles my whole life, I have been surrounded by some of the most famous people in the world, and in all my time here, I have never seen so accomplished a person be so generous of spirit, so giving of his time, so genuinely interested in being kind to everyone he met.

Having attended scores of UCLA basketball games, I have personally witnessed Bill staying for hours after every game to make sure every autograph, every photo and every interaction with every fan was given his full attention.

How ironic then that his favorite band was “The Grateful Dead,” when it was so obvious that he was always so grateful to be alive.

William David Stone

Beverly Hills

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I’ve been watching basketball for more than 50 years and without a doubt Bill Walton played the game with more enthusiasm than any other player I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t too crazy about Bill’s broadcasting style, but Bill was the best NCAA player I’ve ever seen, with Lew Alcindor, who became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, coming in a close second. Like Bill’s UCLA teammate, Greg Lee, Bill left us way too soon.

Vaughn Hardenberg

Westwood

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Whether arguing with John Wooden about his long hair, marching in Vietnam anti-war protests, or extolling the virtues of the Pac-12 as the ‘Conference of Champions,’ the gregarious Bill Walton was so much more than a legendary basketball player. Now the big redhead moves upstairs and shares his love for UCLA and the Grateful Dead while challenging anyone who dares test his knowledge of almost any topic imaginable to a game of Trivial Pursuit. Rest easy, big guy. You will be missed.

Marty Zweben

Palos Verdes Estates

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For four days straight, six years in a row, I was fortunate to enjoy Bill Walton’s company during Byron Scott’s Adult Fantasy Basketball Camp. Bill was always hilarious, kind, enthusiastic, and generous. During two camps he opened his house to campers, which was like a shrine to basketball and the Grateful Dead.

That Walton’s NBA dominance lasted only a few seasons due to injuries does not diminish his greatness or the skill with which he played. He was thrilling to watch. That Bill overcame stuttering to become an insightful and entertaining broadcaster is a testament to his work ethic and perseverance.

I am saddened to hear of his passing, but he’ll live on with all who saw him play or heard his broadcasts.

Ray McKown

Torrance

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In the 50 years since Bill Walton graduated UCLA, a lot has changed in college sports. Bill was a highly recruited high school player that picked UCLA because it was his lifelong dream to play for the Bruins and Coach Wooden. Another school couldn’t wave millions of dollars of NIL money to sway his decision (yes there was Sam Gilbert in the background taking care of the UCLA players). He was not allowed to play on the varsity team as a freshman. Today Bill would be a “one and done” player and not have his retired uniform hanging in Pauley. Now the great ones leave after one year, so will there ever be another player to have his uniform retired and hung in Pauley?

Charles Yacoobian

Valencia

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Bill Walton became known as a broadcaster for his famously unhinged chaotic ramblings (which simultaneously could have everything to do with basketball, and absolutely nothing at all). His games were appointment viewing as a loud and unapologetic shill for the “Conference of Champions,” so, while saddened by his untimely passing, it seems only right that he will never know a world without the Pac-12.

Steve Ross

Carmel

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I had the amazingly good fortune to grow up in the era of the UCLA basketball dynasty. Lew Alcindor, Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Jamaal Wilkes, Gail Goodrich, Marques Johnson, and my favorite player, Bill Walton, the best center I have ever seen.

I had the incredibly good fortune to grow up listening to the likes of Vin Scully, Dick Enberg, Chick Hearn and other legendary announcers. But perhaps my favorite broadcaster of all was that same Bill Walton. He was obnoxious, loud, audacious, outrageous, and talk about hyperbole! But you couldn’t help but love him. You loved his banter; you loved his sarcasm; you loved his enthusiasm … and you loved his undying, genuine and infectious love of the game.

I miss Scully. I miss Hearn. And I already miss Walton — the All-American and All-Pro basketball player, announcer, and human being.

Steve Kaye

Oro Valley, Ariz.

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Losing the “Grateful Red,” who I watched on tape delay on KTLA on so many lonely L.A. nights, was a shock to all of us who admired Bill Walton. I saw Bill play on multiple occasions, but my memories today are of seeing him happily riding his bike through Westwood Village, adjacent to UCLA.

I can only imagine Coach Wooden greeting Bill at the Pearly Gates, welcoming him in, but insisting on a haircut and a shave first.

Mike Anderson

Sherman Oaks

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Don’t worry, after two weeks in heaven a frazzled God will return Bill Walton to his courtside post, where he will continue to ignore games and share his vision of the universe.

Mario Valvo

Ventura

Respect for Dave Roberts

Not receiving enough attention after the Dodgers’ fifth consecutive loss on May 26 was Dave Roberts making a mound visit, not to pull a pitcher, but to embrace one, putting his arms around Yohan Ramirez for an extended period of time, encouraging the pitcher that he can pitch. I’ve never seen that happen before by any manager. For all the criticism about Roberts and his managerial decisions, that gesture of humanity raised my respect for Roberts the man. With the Dodgers down 4-0 with one last at-bat in the top of the ninth, Roberts’ focus wasn’t the result of the game, but the emotions of one of his players. Remarkable.

Brian Crosby

Burbank

Where’s the goodwill?

You printed a letter that was in response to my letter about the Sparks raising the tickets prices more that 500% for the $20 tickets for the Fever/Sparks game. In this letter the writer said that I called the Sparks raising ticket prices “socialism.” For the record, I did not use that word and that was not my point.

My point was that even if a sports team professes to help out and consider the fixed income people by offering affordable tickets to games … that if the opportunity presented itself, the sports team would throw that goodwill out the window to make an extra dollar. In a sellout game where there were 19,000 people … do you think the Sparks could have stayed true to their mission and held back a few hundred tickets at the normal $20 price?

Steve Shaevel

Woodland Hills

Clippers make the right decision

Hats off to the Clippers for being smart business people by signing Tyronn Lue to a long-term, big-money contract, ending any rumors or chances of Lue going to the Lakers. Clippers 1 (won) Lakers 0.

Russell Morgan

Carson

Missed call?

Rumor has it that MLB tried phoning beleaguered umpire Ángel Hernández about his impending “retirement” but he missed the call.

Steve Ross

Carmel

Machines set to take over?

So it turns out that MLB won’t be using an automated strike zone by the 2025 season. Looks like the Astros are going to have to wait another year before they hack into the system.

Joe Kevany

Mount Washington

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The Los Angeles Times welcomes expressions of all views. Letters should be brief and become the property of The Times. They may be edited and republished in any format. Each must include a valid mailing address and telephone number. Pseudonyms will not be used.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.



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