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Bill Walton: LeBron James should play for free

May 7, 2010, 10:35 AM EDT

I’ve missed Bill Walton.

He was a larger-than-life person and personality, a great player and a broadcaster who made the game fun with hyperbole. He rubbed some people the wrong way — I’ll admit he annoyed me at times — but he always a reminder that this is a game and supposed to be fun.

Back pain knocked him down. Hard. But now he is back up, getting back into the game of life and playing evangelist for the doctor and back procedure that has him up and back in the game of life.

Oh, and he has basketball opinions, as he told the New York Times’ Howard Beck:

What I would really like to see is LeBron play for
free. There are rules that you cannot do that. You have to get a minimum
salary. Say, ‘I’ll play for the minimum, I’ll make my money in the
endorsement market — just spend the rest of the money and buy me some
real players. Pay them. And lets make a real super team. And lets change
the history of basketball…

(The Celtics have the) Best point guard in the Eastern Conference, best coach in the Eastern
Conference, best home-court advantage in the East Conference. Best
depth. Tremendous size across the front line. Fantastic individual
offense in Paul
, a phenomenal big-game finisher in Ray
and Kevin
, a historical-level figure who’s playing as well as he can,
based on his physical limitations. I see the Celtics winning the East….

But (Pau Gasol’s) game is unique, because it’s 100 percent based on skill. There’s
never any pushing, shoving. You win the championship when you have the
best player, and the Lakers have that in Kobe — Kobe and LeBron are
the two best players — and you have the best coach, Phil Jackson; and
you dominate the paint. And that’s what Pau Gasol does. And
he does it with his mind, his heart, his soul, his spirit and his
incredible skill.”

I’m fairly sure that among LeBron James’ free agent options, playing for free will not be one of them.

But the idea is fun…. I’ve missed Bill Walton.

  1. Andre' - May 7, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    Joran did it. If he really wants to win, he might have to take a cut someplace.

  2. who - May 7, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    not all the players can put up 20 points. we’re talking about superstars, not just average players. and when a team can nearly match up with a “superstar team,” they’re not all superstar then. kobe needs to restructure his contract, cause i don’t know if bynum can hang anymore..too injury prone. plus the bench needs an upgrade.

  3. Anonymous - May 7, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    going to have to disagree, steve nash holds that title.

  4. Roger - May 7, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    John Elway took a pay cut for the Broncos; and the “result” is proof in the pudding. Walton’s idea has merit.

  5. Aaron - May 7, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    LeBron James WILL play for free (or at least league minimum). Just not right now. It will happen at the end of his career when he makes one last desperate attempt at a championship by jumping on whatever team is the best at that moment. Gotta love the game of basketball today.

  6. Jim Pace - May 7, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    And having Luke play for nothing would free up enough money to get…. Mark Madsen?

  7. max - May 7, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    bill walton + hippy lettuce = this story

  8. Jimmy Nonose - May 7, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    I get the reasoning, but I think that idea Le Stinks. LeBron will need a warchest after the Magic ruin his elbow.

  9. Buckethead - May 7, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Lebron, Kobe, Wade, Gasol, Dwight Howard, Phil Jackson should buy their own team, play on it, coach it etc– and they should then attract all THE BEST players cause they could forgo any salary for the pure profit of owning the team.
    what a fun game. just come up with any silly b.s. and get quoted.

  10. Raj - May 7, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Did Walton need a college degree to think of that one?
    What a D-Bag.

  11. Benbhoops - May 7, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    If Doc Rivers is the best coach in the East, it sure doesn’t say much for the other babysitters. I am not really an NBA fan (left when Iverson came) but my money is on the Orlando Magic. Walton needs to take a hike and become an alien.

  12. a-roid - May 7, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    Better yet… lets have all pro athletes play for free! And, not charge admission for seeing a game!! And, free beer and hot dogs!!! Walton is a genius!

  13. Benbhoops - May 7, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    If Doc Rivers is the best coach in the East, it sure doesn’t say much for the other babysitters. I am not really an NBA fan (left when Iverson came) but my money is on the Orlando Magic. Walton needs to take a hike and become an alien.

  14. nimRod - May 7, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    I had the chance to meet the Big Red head at the Steven Wynn Hotel in Vegas when back in 2006 Team USA were preparing for international comp. I walked up to him and his lovely wife in the lobby and shook his hand. One of the most pleasant guys I have ever met. Good luck Bill and God Bless you and I do miss hearing your snarky, sarcastic comments. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  15. Anonymous - May 7, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    This was all tongue-in-cheek by Walton, nothing more. To everyone that actually took him 100% seriously……you’re the idiots….not him.

  16. Chazz - May 7, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    It’s amazing to see how many stupid people there are in this world. Bill, as annoying as he often is, was not suggesting that Lebron wasn’t worth the money. He was saying that by him giving up his salary, the Cavs would be far below the salary cap could afford some other marqee players. Lebron could easily scrape by with his millions from endorsements.
    For those who think this is ridiculous, I hate to tell you, but something similiar has happened in the past. Magic Johnson voluntarily took a pay cut in order to pick up Terry Teagle. Magic was more concerned about winning than the team paying him big bucks.

  17. mick-7-1961 - May 7, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    Play for free? Like you did, Bill?

  18. mick-7-1961 - May 7, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    You bring up some interesting points Cazz-with bucks these guys make in endorsements, imagine what message they’d send to the fans if they did what Magic did. Playing because of the love of the game and winning are a lost art, to say the least.

  19. What!? - May 7, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    Has everyone forgotten Walton and his first contract?
    Ticket prices went up an average of $40 per ticket! (Which was lot back then)
    He needs to practice what he preaches.

  20. Sean - May 7, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    haha HILARIOUS! Bill’s tight, luke’s got no jumper…

  21. Steve - May 7, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    Jordan got paid big bucks. There was some kind of exemption that allowed the Bulls to pay him more than anyone else could, because it was an extension, I think. The majority of his salary did not go into the salary cap.

  22. lowbeat - May 7, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    C’mon everyone, where would Basketball be without Mr Walton, NCAA or NBA? We can disagree and still enjoy the game…remember MJ took a lot less money for quite a few years to bring the right talent levels to Chicago in order to win!? For Love of the Game…I’ve missed you Bill!

  23. Nukechem57 - May 7, 2010 at 10:56 PM

    Bill Walton has a good sense of humor, and the fact he’s getting responses from the know-it-all electrons (they’re just so negative!), like you, I find it all quite amusing. Name-calling is immature, well-composed compost is more mature.

  24. Bill-Sonora - May 7, 2010 at 11:03 PM

    Bill was fun to listen to on the air. I for one miss him.
    Funny guy.

  25. Jim - May 8, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    LeBron should not play for free- he should donate his basketball salary to a worthy cause- as a humanitarian- he clearly needs no money above his endorsements-
    but I say get all you can- you deserve it- and make a statement by donating to a charity-
    he would be regarded as one of the most influential players in history ( which he almost is already)

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