Where's Walton? ... Day 19: Watching the Game and Enjoying A Pep Rally at NBA City in Orlando
WEDNESDAY, MAY 8: ORLANDO, FLORIDA
Hall of Famer and NBA on NBC analyst Bill Walton, who led his Portland Trail Blazers to an NBA championship 25 years ago, is making history once again as he "Loves it Live" by traveling to 30 NBA games in 30 days during NBA Playoffs 2002. Join Walton as he experiences the thrilling playoff excitement first hand, which is passionately documented in his daily reports on NBA.com along with an exclusive “Where’s Walton?” map
spotlighting his cross-country travels. Get on the Bus!
|By Bill Walton|
The dark before the dawn... WAITING FOR THE SUN, WAITING FOR THE SUN... Morning in New York City, few urban environments can match the electricity of this incredible metropolis coming to life, one more time...
Walton caught up with longtime friend Bryant Gumbel on The Early Show.
The Early Show, with Bryant Gumbel, sharing with him and the millions of viewers the beauty, the passion, the uniqueness and the better than perfect nature of the "Love It Live!" Tour... Bryant and I first met over 30 years ago when he was working in Los Angeles and I was a UCLA student. His body of work has been a beacon of truth, justice and inspiration for all of us, who struggle to make this a better world...
I used to work for Bryant’s older brother Greg at NBC. I drove him so crazy, I chased him away. He quit... "I can’t take this anymore," he mumbled on his way out the door... I got to spend some time prior to my segment with Bryant, with the guys who are running the Jerry Garcia memorabilia auction last night. To be able to hold the guitars Tiger and Wolf one more time was beyond special – so many incredible memories... Countless times I’ve spent backstage, harassing Jerry, trying to convince him to play my favorite songs. I would always come with a set list, begging, pleading. Jerry would invariably nod his head and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, Bill, just write it down. I’ll try to remember it.’ If I was really lucky, I’d get one song per show out of a suggested set list of 20-30 recommendations. One song and I still felt blessed.
The Garcia auction is a really cool thing and the book itself, cataloguing the items available, is a terrific collector's item in and of itself. Our home in San Diego is a shrine to John Wooden, UCLA, the Pyramid of Success, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, John Lennon, all of our favorites... Some people are stunned when they hear that I've gone to over 600 Dead shows. Thumbing through the catalogue of the Garcia collection, I'm stunned and saddened of how much I've really missed.
One guy who never missed a thing was Larry Bird... The similarities between Jerry and Larry are eerie. They’re really the same person. Imagine my shock when I first joined the Celtics and heard the Garden crowd chanting what I thought was ‘Jer-ry,’ ‘Jer-ry.’ ‘Jer-ry.’ It wasn’t until I listened really close that I realized it was for Larry... Traveling with Larry was always a trip. He was one of those guys who trained himself to sleep on the planes. Or maybe it was because he hadn’t gone to bed yet? We played together in the waning days of commercial travel for NBA players. When we got off the planes at that day’s destination, the media was waiting for you at the gate... My, how things have changed.
Never has Bill looked so small as he does standing outside NBA City with a super-sized player.
And Larry, while rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, scraping the dry blood off his face from who knows whatever happened the night before -- whether it was a 47-minute virtuoso performance against the Lakers or too much fun with his friends post game -- Larry Bird would always stand in front of the assembled Third Estate. He would basically call that night’s opponent out. He would bark, ‘Who are we playing tonight? What’s the scoring record in this building? Who’s coaching this team? They don’t have anybody who can guard me.’ Kevin, Chief, DJ, Danny and the rest of us would all stand to the side in utter amazement. We knew we would have to really be there to back up our fearless leader. After calling the franchise, the city, the county, the state and the entire history of the region out, Larry would show up at the game, ready to deliver... CRAZY ROOSTER CROWING MIDNIGHT ... BALLS OF LIGHTNING ROLL ALONG ... OLD MEN SING ABOUT THEIR DREAMS ... WOMEN LAUGH AND CHILDREN SCREAM ... AND THE BAND KEEPS PLAYING ON...
Follow the passion ... that’s what the "Love It Live!" Tour is all about ... Word on the bus traveled fast ... rabid NBA fans have been gathering on a nightly basis at the NBA City restaurant in Orlando, "Loving It Live!" since Day 1 of NBA Playoffs 2002 and we had to go check that scene out ... The Bus made an immediate detour and headed south for Orlando, anticipating a zany playoff atmosphere and they delivered.
The drama, suspense and grandeur of the pep rally outside NBA City on the lake... THERE’S MOSQUITOES ON THE RIVER ... FISH ARE RISING UP LIKE BIRDS... at Orlando’s City Walk set the mesmerizing tone. The pageantry was splendid as music was blaring from the speakers and the cheerleaders were feeding off the crowd’s incredible energy... Everybody's dancing... THERE’S A BAND OUT ON THE HIGHWAY ... THEY’RE HIGH-STEPPING INTO TOWN ... IT’S A RAINBOW FULL OF SOUND ... IT’S FIREWORKS, CALLIOPES AND CLOWNS... It was great to get a few shots in before the autograph circle, which captured the evening’s sunset so perfectly ... SUN WENT DOWN IN HONEY ... AND THE MOON CAME UP IN WINE... The stroke felt good and I was hoping Jim O’Brien needed somebody to get him one hoop. Just one … The gigantic 50-foot statue of the NBA logo man out in front of the restaurant, reminds us all what is might be like to play against Shaq.
Bill does some light reading in the dressing room before the The Early Show with Bryant Gumbel.
The game – featured on giant projection screens -- started and the Celtics, as expected, were magnificent, from the opening tap, scoring a three-pointer on their first possession – that’s Larry Bird. We feasted, satiated our thirst in the hot steamy weather of Central Florida... IT’S BEEN HOT FOR SEVEN WEEKS NOW ... TOO HOT TO EVEN SPEAK NOW ... DID YOU HEAR WHAT I JUST HEARD? ... and it was great to see the throngs of Celtics fans everywhere, coming to the altar to be blessed by this beautiful performance... SAY, IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A FIDDLE ... OR IT COULD HAVE BEEN THE WIND ... BUT THERE SEEMS TO BE A BEAT NOW ... I CAN FEEL IT IN MY FEET NOW ... LISTEN HERE IT COMES AGAIN...
Tension was in the air because Pistons fans are so loyal as well. The shouting matches, the cheering, the yelling, the ebb and flow, the swings in momentum, the atmosphere at this hoop’s heaven was just like being at the game... THE BAND KEPT US SO BUSY ... WE FORGOT ABOUT THE TIME... In the end, the Celtics were the better team... THEY’RE A BAND BEYOND DESCRIPTION ... LIKE JEHOVAH’S FAVORITE CHOIR... They were better conditioned, more skilled, more determined, sharper in every respect. The game set up the ,b>"Love It Live’s!" highly anticipated return to Boston on Friday night for Game 3. Celtics fans are already chanting around the world in unison: ‘Go Celtics, Go.’ ‘Go Celtics, Go.’... WHILE THE MUSIC PLAYS THE BAND ... THEY’RE SETTING US ON FIRE...
QUOTE OF THE DAY
|“The wide array of memorabilia at NBA City represents the history of the world’s greatest game. To be able to stand there in awe of the life-size portrait of Bill Russell, my favorite NBA player ever, was a dream come true. The photo features Russell towering over a referee, who has his hands covering his ears as if he didn’t want to hear another word. My immediate thought was, ‘Bill, I agree with everything you say.’”|
I can’t sleep tonight as I anticipate the new dawn, because today takes me to Dallas, back to Kings-Mavs... KEEP ON DANCING THROUGH TO DAYLIGHT ... GREET THE MORNING AIR WITH SONG ... NO ONE’S NOTICED BUT THE BAND’S ALL PACKED AND GONE ... WAS IT EVER HERE AT ALL? ... BUT THEY KEPT ON DANCING... What a game ... what a series ... what subplots ... what excitement ... what fans...
The best is yet to come. My favorite part of life has always been about looking forward to what’s next... So often reality can never match the hype, the anticipation, but this is different. This is Little Stevie and some guy named Dirk. This is Mike and some guy named Peja... This is basketball at it’s best... This is the fastest, most creative, most imaginative, most vibrant, most dynamic action that I can visualize. I used to think that I had a vivid imagination but that was before Dennis Rodman came along and changed all of the standards... The beautiful thing about Kings-Mavs, is that there are no standards. There are no parallels. There are no rules... It’s time to play, it’s time to rock... American Airlines Arena will be swaying, swelling with enthusiasm as fans hunger for the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers... Kings-Mavs: Whose gonna have it in Game 3?... Who really wants it?!!... Let’s see if Chris Webber has woken up from his nap yet?... AND THE FIELDS ARE FULL OF DANCING ... FULL OF SINGING AND ROMANCING ... THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED...