67 years ago, in La Mesa, California, the best 6th man in NBA history was born. Oh, by the way, he was also an MVP (’78), Finals MVP (’77), and led the Portland Trail Blazers to their only NBA championship in 1977.
His family in La Mesa was the farthest thing from an athletic family. His parents were interested in music, literature, art, and education. Your typical liberal family in California in the 60s. Young Bill was a complete outlier with his passion for basketball. The story about his father driving him to a game describes it best:
When I was in 7th grade, my parents would give up their weekends to drive me to these stupid little basketball games. I was so interested in playing in them, I was sitting there, and I looked over to my dad, and he’s driving along. I said: “Dad, one day I’m gonna win the MVP in the NBA and for winning that you get a brand new car. I’m gonna give you that car.” My dad looked back at me and said: “What’s the NBA??” My dad still has that car. I’m very proud of that.
His family is one of the reasons Walton was so unorthodox for an NBA player. His “unconventional lifestyle” as it was described, and political activism, his overall appearance – Walton was a flower child who happened to be one of the best big men to ever play in the NBA.
If there is one player I could go back and give full health to, it would be Bill Walton. He spent over nine full seasons injured and in recovery. He had two great years in Portland (1977 and 1978) and a swan dance in Boston, almost a decade later in 1986. Walton came off the bench that year and for 20 minutes per game reminded everyone how he won a championship in Portland with a supporting cast of Mo Lucas, Lionel Hollins, Bobby Gross, Johnny Davis, Dave Twardzik, and Lloyd Neal.
Recognize any of those names? My point exactly.