Being named one of the National Basketball Association’s 50 Greatest Players of All Time is all Bill Walton would need to establish his sport credibility; but, Walton is so much more than that. He had a legendary high school career in La Mesa, California; played a huge part in the John Wooden-coached UCLA basketball dynasty of the 1960s/1970s; had an obviously stellar NBA career; spent years at the center of one of sports’ enduring controversies [still quite hot today]: “playing when hurt,” and “playing when medicated;” has spent years as a notable, sometimes controversial basketball commentator at all levels of the game; and, is almost as famous for his Grateful Dead-influenced, laid-back, poetic, California philosophy of life. It is with the greatest pleasure that Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® President, Lou Ann Thompson, announces that a great athlete and an uncommonly interesting man, Bill Walton, will serve the 2014 Festival as its Sports Marshal.
Bill Walton was born in La Mesa, California, on November 5th, 1952. His listed adult playing height was 6 feet 11 inches; but, it has been reported that Walton was actually taller (7 feet 2 inches, or more), but did not like being categorized as a seven-footer. He played college basketball for legendary coach, John Wooden, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1971 to 1974, winning the national title in 1972 over Florida State; and, again in 1973 with an 87–66 win over Memphis State in which Walton made an impressive 21 of 22 field goal attempts and scored 44 points. The Walton-led 1971–72 UCLA basketball team had a record of 30–0, winning its games by an average margin of more than 30 points. He was the backbone of two consecutive 30–0 seasons and was also part of UCLA’s NCAA men’s basketball record 88-game winning streak.
Walton was taken as the number one overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers; and, was hailed as the savior of the Portland franchise. It was not until the 1976–77 season that he was healthy enough to play 65 games; and, spurred by new head coach, Jack Ramsay, the Trail Blazers became the Cinderella team of the NBA. Walton led the NBA in rebounds and blocked shots that season, and was selected to the NBA All-Star Game. In the postseason, Walton led Portland to a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals (arguably holding his own against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). As Finals MVP, he went on to help the Trail Blazers to the NBA title over the favored Philadelphia 76ers. His subsequent NBA career at times seemed to be a painful odyssey of injuries, especially to his feet and ankles; but, when he was healthy, he was spectacular, especially during a late-career stint with the Boston Celtics, capped by the Celtics winning the 1986 NBA Championship. After his retirement,Walton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame; and, in 1996, he was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all time. After his retirement as a player, Walton overcame a stuttering problem to become a successful NBA color commentator for NBC (1990–2002), the Los Angeles Clippers (1990–2002) and ABC/ESPN (2002–2009). Following surgery on his back, Walton returned to broadcasting as a part-time commentator for the Sacramento Kings (2010-2012). In July 2012, ESPN and the Pac-12 Network announced that he would be working as a game analyst for Pac-12 basketball coverage.
As Sports Marshal, Bill Walton will be the Featured Speaker at the Partlow Insurance Sports Breakfast, held at 8:00am, Saturday morning, May 3rd, at the Winchester Moose Lodge, 215 East Cork Street, in Old Town Winchester. He will also ride in the Grand Feature Parade at 1:30pm on that Saturday afternoon. Tickets to all Festival events are now on sale at “The Railroad District, 302 North Cameron Street” in Old Town Winchester, and many event tickets are available right here at the Official Online Store.