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Bill Walton feeling good… and predicts a Lakers/Heat finals

Jan 23, 2012, 1:16 PM EDT

Bill+Walton Getty Images

Bill Walton is a guy with his priorities in the right place.

Three years laying on your back will do that — he told me again that he thought his life was over at points during that time — and now that he is back up after an innovative surgery his outlook on every day is one that would make the world a better place if we all could have it.

“I haven’t been this healthy since high school,” Walton said from his home in San Diego last week. “I had 36 orthopedic operations, I’ve got two fused ankles; my knee, hands and wrists don’t work; I’ve now got a fused spine, but other than that everything is fantastic. I’m excited every single day.”

Walton is up and active with his trademark energy again. You can hear it in his voice and see it in his daily schedule, which starts with a 4:30 a.m. workout. He is involved in a number of business opportunities, plus he is donating time and opening up his home to a charity event to benefit the Challenged Athletes Foundation, helping disabled athletes get a new outlook as he has. Walton is auctioning off a party at his home to raise money for this. (Keep on reading, we get to that more at the end.)

And of course, he is involved with and watching a lot of basketball. The sport that helped give him a lot of the opportunities he has had. He was at the Hall of Fame inductions last year to welcome Arvydas Sabonis to the Hall.

And as a guy who has fought to overcome injuries and adversity, he is drawn to Kobe Bryant, who Walton called “staggeringly magnificent.”

“Kobe Bryant, this guy is just phenomenal,” Walton said. “For him to be able to sustain this at such a remarkably high level. Right now I’m looking at a Lakers/Heat finals. And Dallas will be good, Oklahoma City will be good, the Clippers will pose some problems, Chicago is very good.”

But Walton also sees what many of us have, that there is a coming changing of the guard in the NBA.

“But this is a changing league out there,” Walton said. “It’s always been a young man’s game and time has caught up with some of the legends…. We’re glad the Knicks are putting together a roster that can compete at the highest levels. And to see Miami’s regroup from last year’s collapse at the end, when the championship was theirs to be had. To come back with such spirit and fire.

Still, it takes experience to win.

“What experience teaches you is just how hard it is (to win). And how much it takes…” something Walton relates to his own story of physical challenges. “The vision, the sacrifice, the willingness to put it all out there. That is what it takes every single day. As these young teams — Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma City, New York — as they fight with everything they have to get to that promised land, they have to realize what is really important…. All the great teams, it is about the foundation, the commitment of the players to the team, and the leadership. Who is going to get the job done?”

Walton, a former Clipper player and broadcaster, also has enjoyed the renaissance of that franchise.

“I am so happy for Clippers fans and I am so happy for (long-time Clippers broadcaster) Ralph Lawler, who is such an enjoyable listen. And just to be able to turn on the games and listen to Ralph, and to see how much fun they are having…

“That guy Chris Paul. That guy is really, really good. Plus he’s my wife’s favorite player. His level of creativity, his level of imagination, his level of determination…. he makes other people better at what they do, he makes other people’s dreams come true, he puts a smile on other people’s faces.”

Walton’s theme or rebirth in his life ties into his work with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which works to provide equipment, opportunity and everything needed for soldiers injured in Afghanistan or Iraq, or maybe a person injured in a car accident at home, to help find their way again through sport.

To help raise money, Walton is opening up his home in San Diego for a party. Through, there is an auction and the winner gets to come with all their friends or co-workers, or whomever they want to invite for an evening of food, music and conversation with Walton.

“We are opening our house to an event… Bring whoever you want. Bring the family, bring your team, bring the company, your organization over to the house,” he said. “We’ve been in this house 33 years near Balboa Park in my home town of San Diego, we love our home and we’re going to share it with other people willing to make a difference in the lives of people involved with the Challenged Athletes Foundation.”

When he talks about it you can hear the energy in his voice. The energy that made him a big-time broadcaster and that made him the player he was. It’s just good to hear that passion again.

  1. captainwisdom8888 - Jan 23, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Heat vs Thunder

  2. illcomm - Jan 23, 2012 at 1:30 PM


  3. donttazemebro - Jan 23, 2012 at 1:35 PM


    and he’s wrong about the Lakers.

  4. b7p19 - Jan 23, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Can’t say I agree with the Lakers pick, but I’m really happy that Walton is doing so well. The work he is doing for the community is fantastic. Really good stuff. Also, people have always made fun of his over the top positive attitude when he was an announcer, but that certainly seems like a much better way to live than constantly being negative. I’m a huge Bill Walton fan.

  5. bozosforall - Jan 23, 2012 at 2:12 PM


  6. stadix093 - Jan 23, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    I’m a Lakers fan, and even I thinks he’s crazy. Heat vs Thunder is most likely but I’m hoping for Bulls vs Thunder. That would be the first NBA finals ever that I would be happy with either team winning.

  7. rosloe62 - Jan 23, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    The 2000’s called, they want their prediction back!
    2012 Bulls vs Thunder.

  8. glink123 - Jan 23, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    The Lakers are currently the number 10 seed in the West.

    • cinnalocks - Jan 23, 2012 at 4:31 PM

      I put no credence in the Lakers pulling off anything super as they stand. But “one never knows”!
      A couple of changes here and there…….to give them three night in night out scorers will put them in the playoffs….once you are in, anything is possible.

  9. 00maltliquor - Jan 23, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Good man, Bill. You’re a good man.

    MIA vs. LAL…If Bill said it then it is written. Sorry CHI, OKC. Better luck next year.

  10. tobytoro - Jan 23, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    He definitely isn’t feeling good with that prediction.

  11. jimsjam33 - Jan 23, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Nice read , but sorry Bill . Substitute Bulls for Heat and a healthy Clippers team for Lakers .

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