Where's Walton? ... Day 29: Reflecting on War and Watching the Lakers Dominate in Sacramento
SATURDAY, MAY 18: SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA
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 gathering of eagles has begun … HEY, HEY, MY, MY, ROCK ’N’ ROLL WILL NEVER DIE … IT’S BETTER TO BURN OUT THAN IT IS TO RUST … ROCK ’N’ ROLL WILL NEVER DIE
… Shaq, Kobe, Webber, Bibby, Jackson, Horry, Pierce, Kidd, Jefferson, Martin ….The BEST of the BEST are still SOARING … I’M GONNA WAKE UP IN THE MORNG, LORD … I’M GONNA PACK UP MY BAGS … I’M GONNA BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE
Captain Jack stocked the Bus for yet ANOTHER cross-country trip, back to our favorite SWAMP … YES AND I’LL BE WAITING AT THE STATION, LORD, WHEN THAT TRAIN PULLS ON BY …I’M GOING BACK WHERE I BELONG … YES AND I’M GOIN’ NORTH TO MY SAME OLD USED TO BE …DOWN IN JOE BROWN’S COAL MINE …My mind’s racing, trying to find a safe landing. I COULD NOT stave off the flying EAGLES …FLY LIKE AN EAGLE … LET MY SPIRIT CARRY ME … I WANT TO FLY LIKE AN EAGLE …TILL I’M FREE …FREE AS CAN BE
Bill gathers with The Merry Pranksters, Assistant Captain (left) and T-Stack, outside ARCO Arena prior to Game #1 of the Western Conference Finals.
The trip in the late ’70s to the Philippines when ABC producer Bob Nixon – I should have known when I heard the last name – called me up out of the clear Blue Yonder and said, ‘Bill, We need a voice of reason, strength, power, environmental commitment and foolishness, PLEASE come to the Philippines. We’re working on an environmental documentary on the world’s most endangered Eagle, the Philippine Eagle. We NEED YOU TO CLIMB A TREE and hold a bird. -- I responded: ‘No, problem. I’m on my way.’
On the massive southern island of the Phillipine Archipelago of Mindinao, we trekked for days – weeks -- through the tropical jungles of Southeast Asia, desperately scratching out an existence from the land, the temperatures soaring to 120 degrees every day with 100 percent humidity. How can anybody fight a war under these conditions? Always searching for the elusive Philippine Imperial Eagle, whose habitat is being destroyed by the minute from the logging practices, by the ravages of a desperate economy that had been plundered by Emperor Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda … I WANT TO FLY LIKE AN EAGLE TIL I’M FREE … FLY THROUGH THE REVOLUTION …TILL MY FLYING SETS ME FREE…
We finally found our eagles. The tree I had to climb was 200 feet tall. The first branch at 170 feet. I some how made it to the top, bloodied, scratched and scraped attacked numerous times by the very eagles we were looking to photograph, document and ultimately save. We wanted to measure the growth of a young baby chick, who is trying to survive in this world of madness. All the while the craziness swirling around us, burning fires, encroaching humanity, ever shrinking regions where the eagles can fly so high.
LET MY SPIRIT CARRY ME …FLY LIKE AN EAGLE …TRYIN’ TO BE FREE…
One day sitting on a denuded hillside, peering through binoculars, our group of scientists, concerned citizens and bird lovers were watching the flight of the mighty eagles soar up and down the canyons, valleys, ever searching for the day’s meal. When we looked up, we realized we were surrounded by a large group of armed insurgents with machine guns leveled at our heads … Our guide, Tony, the only one who spoke the local dialect, was much like Gus Angermeyer from the Galapagos. Fortunately, he was able to TALK our way out of this desperate situation. IT ONLY cost us money, food and clothes. Thankfully, it did not cost us our women or our lives … On the way out of the jungles, back to California, we stopped to interview Marcos about what he was doing to save this precious species. He gave us A SONG AND DANCE about how he was committed to everything … BUT THE SONG IT WAS LONG … AND THERE WAS MORE TO BE SUNG … MY EYES DANCED A CIRCLE … BUT THE SONG IT WAS LONG…
Little did we know that for Ferdinand and Imelda, it was all ABOUT THE SHOES … I TURN ON CHANNEL SIX, THE PRESIDENT COMES ON THE NEWS…SAYS I GOT NO SATISFACTION, THAT’S WHY I SING THE BLUES …HIS WIFE SAYS DON’T GET CRAZY …LORD YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO ..JUST CRANK THAT OLD VICTROLA …PUT ON YOUR ROCKING SHOES …
TIN SOLDIERS AND NIXON COMING … WE’RE FINALLY ON OUR OWN … THIS SUMMER I HEAR THE DRUMMING … WHAT IF YOU SAW HER … HOW CAN YOU RUN WHEN YOU KNOW?
FLY LIKE AN EAGLE TO THE SEA …
The eagles are SOARING, flying, circling above the great state of California and again it is ANOTHER PERFECT DAY … LET MY SPIRIT CARRY ME …You forget, forget, FORGET how absolutely wonderful it is to be here. The sun so warm, the air so fresh, so inviting, so perfect, DAY AFTER DAY … SEASHORE WASHED BY THE SUDS AND THE FOAM …BEEN HERE SO LONG HE’S GOT TO CALLING IT HOME…The whole time, though, thinking about the two most important skills that you’re ever going to need in life, much less in today’s game … BALANCE and QUICKNESS
Balance, the ability to keep the head directly over the mid-point between the two feet so that when the obstacles in life or basketball pop up in front of you, you’re able to move around them. You can’t JUST knock things over in life. If your game is based on size and strength, what are you going to do when Shaq shows up? Balance -- SPIRITUAL, PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL -- the ability to keep the ball in a triple-threat position so that you can be the FIRST to the NEXT PLAY. That requires quickness. Being first has NOTHING to do with physical skill, it has NOTHING to do with how fast your legs move. QUICKNESS is a MENTAL SKILL, QUICKNESS IS ANTICIPATION, figuring out what is going to happen next before anybody else does -- whether it’s sports, life, business, music – It doesn’t matter, IT’S ALL THE SAME …CHASING IT DOWN … WHO IS GOING TO BE THERE FIRST? … CHASING IT DOWN … LARRY BIRD, who couldn’t jump over a stack of two pieces of paper, LARRY BIRD who couldn’t run faster at his peak than I CAN walk today at 49 with TWO FUSED ANKLES … YET LARRY BIRD is the QUICKEST PLAYER I EVER SAW. He dreamed, he visualized, he saw everything before it ever took place … He was Bobby Fischer …He was Gary Kasparov …He was playing so far ahead of the game … LARRY BIRD WAS THE QUICKEST PLAYER I EVER SAW …The Eagles flying …TIME KEEPS ON SLIPPIN’, SLIPPIN’, SLIPPIN’ … INTO THE FUTURE…LARRY BIRD … JOHN WOODEN …JERRY GARCIA …. BOB DYLAN … NEIL YOUNG … Whose wings will be spread now? Whose wings will be clipped? … LET MY SPIRIT CARRY ME…
We’ve talked so many times throughout the journal on how our lives are so crazed, so wild, that we have to be extremely careful about bumping into people who are not on the Bus. THAT IS NO longer the case! EVERYBODY in Sacramento is on board!!
Throughout the course of 26 years of touring with the Dead, I’ve always scrambled to get to one show after another. As a dad, a UCLA student, a professional basketball player, a Stanford law student and a broadcaster, I’ve been able to slip into town like a soaring eagle … LET MY SPIRIT CARRY ME …PLEASE SET ME FREE… JUST to be able to get to even ONE show, even a SET or just one song was always my ULTIMATE GOAL. One day I was racing into the hotel after coming from an incredibly serious and intense business meeting – might have been a lawsuit, those are fun. I was DRESSED in a DARK BLUE CORPORATE SUIT, looking as STIFF as I’ve ever been. I ran into Jerry in the hotel lobby as he was heading to the show. He had the same mindset that everyone has today in suiting up for the ultimate moment. For the biggest of games, Jerry was always so DETERMINED, so FOCUSED on getting to the show. When we bumped into each other, he looked up and saw me dressed in THAT uniform. Looking bewildered, puzzled and confused, he asked: ‘Bill, are you all right?’
I raced upstairs, threw on MY COLORS and spread my wings … THE EAGLE’S SOARING …LET MY SPIRIT CARRY ME …I WANT TO FLY LIKE AN EAGLE TO THE SEA …PLEASE SET ME FREE…
I started my morning walk at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento today. The spirit behind the Kings has taken over everything. The water in Cesar’s fountain is now purple. A couple of blocks away, at Capitol Park, more beautiful than ever, I made sure to stop at all of the war memorials that dominate this place of peace. I was taken back in time to ’94 in Washington, D.C. Coach Wooden and I were both inducted into the Academic All-America Hall of Fame that year. Abraham Lincoln is Coach Wooden’s favorite American. We went to the Lincoln Memorial and stood at the giant feet of this ultimate FREEDOM FIGHTER. We were visibly moved as we read the lyrics of Lincoln’s Gettsyburg Address ….
FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO OUR FATHERS BROUGHT FORTH ON THIS CONTINENT, A NEW NATION, CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY, AND DEDICATED TO THE PROPOSITION THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL …………now there’s a novel concept.
And then our eyes shifted to his second inaugural address that was featured on the other wall in the Memorial.
At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first…
Through the tears -- the pain and the suffering of a nation gone wrong through civil war over man’s hatred and greed -- COACH WOODEN AND I GREW EVER CLOSER. A powerful book that best captures those troubled times is “April 1865,” by Jay Winik. This dramatic read provides incredible detail and insight on the most important month in our nation’s history in examining the root causes and the dynamics of the personalities involved that shaped our nation’s future.
Walking down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I asked Coach if he would please come with me over to the Vietnam Memorial, a place I always visit when I’m in D.C. The tears coming down to fill buckets, as we stood there, dazed and confused among the madness, among the craziness, the weirdness, the selfishness, the lies, deceit and deception. As we were leaving, Coach Wooden, on his own, started to recite a poem, Two Sides of War by Grantland Rice.
All wars are planned by older men
In council rooms apart
They call for greater armament and map the battle chart
But out upon the shattered fields where golden hopes are gray
How very young the faces are where all the dead men lay
Poorly and solemn in their pride, the elders cast their vote
For this or that or something else that sounds the warlike note
But where their sightless eyes stare out and gone are all their joys
I’ve noticed nearly all of the dead were hardly more than boys
QUOTE OF THE DAY
|“Never underestimate the value of leadership, coaching and breathing life into lost souls. Despite the non-sensical comments from Bob Huggins, THANK GOODNESS for Phil Jackson.”
As we came up out of the trench that is the Vietnam Memorial, the Eagle is circling overhead, flying … LET MY SPIRIT CARRY ME ….PLEASE SET ME FREE… I’m dreaming about the time of another gathering of Eagles descending, this time on Las Vegas at a book festival featuring Mickey Hart and Ken Kesey (who brought the Bus, the same one we’re using NOW on the "Love It Live!" Tour). The eagles soared in from around the world to land atop the Bus. With Captain Babs at the wheel -- Captain Jack had not yet signed on yet -- a bus load of the happiest people in the universe drove down the strip in Las Vegas sprinkling magic dust over the ever-growing throngs … That night, Mickey Hart played a special percussion concert in celebration of his new book --- “Planet Drum: A Celebration of Percussion and Rhythm.” Everyone was dancing deliriously as the rhythm devils pounded away. As the show reached its climatic finale, a lightening bolt of inspiration flashed and hit Mickey. He instinctively led a procession out of the concert hall and onto the streets of Las Vegas … THEN GOD WAY UP IN HEAVEN, FOR WHATEVER IT WAS WORTH …THOUGHT HE’D HAVE A BIG OLD PARTY, THOUGHT HE’D CALL IT PLANET EARTH … DON’T WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW … LORD, YOU’LL KNOW IT WHEN IT COMES … WHEN THE ROCKING, ROLLING MUSIC MEETS THE RISING SUN…THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of people, the crowd growing by the breath, were playing drums, dancing and parading up and down the streets of Las Vegas, many of them in various stages of undress as the parade meandered on. Cars pulled off to the side of the road, people emptying out, to join in this celebration of the greatness of music, life and eagles soaring … IT WAS THE GRANDEST CELEBRATION OF NATURAL LIFE IN THE EPICENTER OF THE NATURAL WORLD, THE LAS VEGAS STRIP...
I WANT TO FLY LIKE AN EAGLE … TILL I’M FREE …FLY LIKE AN EAGLE … PLEASE SET ME FREE…
The Smoking crater that is my mind now takes me to the last Grateful Dead show that I went to. It was Mardi Gras in February of ’95, seven months before Jerry left us. The parallels to the spectacle unfolding before my eyes here at Arco today and my last Dead show in Oakland, are uncanny. Like that night, dancing, dreaming, drifting with the Dead, people here in Sacramento are so full of life, PEACE, LOVE, JOY AND HAPPINESS ALL AROUND. Fans are Loving it Live even though tip off is still SEVERAL hours away … I LOOKED UP INTO HEAVEN, LORD I SAW A MIGHTY SIGN … WRIT IN FIRE ACROSS THE HEAVEN, PLAIN AS BLACK AND WHITE …GET PREPARED …THERE’S GONNA BE A PARTY TONIGHT …ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT…Both events were led by creative geniuses, visionaries who are masters at staging the greatest show on earth. In Oakland, it was Bill Graham. Here, it’s the Maloofs … TEMPERATURE KEEPS RISING, EVERYBODY GETTING HIGH …COME THE ROCKING STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, THE WHOLE PLACE IS GONNA FLY…Graham assembled massive, decorative, thematic eye-popping floats. I was the grandmaster on one of them. It was a basketball shoe featuring dozens of young happy kids jumping around, throwing beads, balls, Frisbees and flowers into the crowd as we were pushed through. In front and in back of me were other floats -- painted ladies scantily clothed -- if at all -- dancing wildly throughout the night. I thought to myself, ‘How did I get on the wrong float? Lori was extremely CONCERNED.
Now, we’re floating like Eagles in Sacramento … I WANT TO FLY LIKE AN EAGLE …FLY LIKE AN EAGLE …PLEASE SET ME FREE…
RamRod, T-Stack and Assistant Captain Jack, soared into Arco today, providing us with some special fuel to get us through the last 48 hours of the TOUR. These three WELCOME ADDITIONS give us a complete roster of MERRY PRANKSTERS. The "Love It Live!" Tour in its closing moments has become an unqualified success. THERE IS NOW NO MORE ROOM ON THE BUS!!!! … NEVER HAD SUCH A GOOD TIME … IN MY LIFE BEFORE…I’D LIKE TO HAVE IT ONE TIME MORE …ONE GOOD RIDE FROM THE START TO END …I’D LIKE TO TAKE THAT RIDE AGAIN …MIGHT AS WELL ...MIGHT AS WELL ... MIGHT AS WELL ...
We saw whose wings were clipped today as the Lakers played a flawless game. And while the Kings had some tenuous, dubious opportunities late, they were never able to ultimately wrest control. The questions now getting sharper: Can the DAMAGE be REPAIRED? Is Chris Webber a lead player or is he merely a complimentary finisher? … SAINT STEPHEN WITH A ROSE … TALK ABOUT YOUR PLENTY …TALK ABOUT YOUR ILLS …ONE MAN GATHERS WHAT ANOTHER MAN SPILLS… Will Turkoglu and Christie realize how important they are on the offensive end? The most brilliant of performers are in their most relaxed state in the most serious and intense moments … SAINT STEPHEN …CAN YOU ANSWER? YES I CAN …BUT WHAT WOULD BE THE ANSWER TO THE ANSWER MAN?
Will Vlade realize how effective he can truly be if he’ll just leave the junk alone and play ball. Will Adelman somehow be able to restore the shaken confidence? This is not going to be easy. It is far from over. One basketball game DOESN’T a season make. But TWO DOES!
The Lakers could not have played any better. Shaq looks ready to once again do as he pleases.
Yet another cross-country trek, the Golden Hills, the oak trees, on our way to Tahoe, Donner Pass and the crossing of the Sierra. The perfect day that drenched us on our way in, has now turned gray, like the mood of the Sacramento King fans … WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE GONE …WHERE HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE GONE …WALK ME OUT IN THE MORNING DEW TODAY… Somehow, I figure by tomorrow, IT WILL ALL BE MY FAULT ONCE AGAIN ….I GUESS IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYWAY …That’s behind us, we’re off to PAUL PIERCE AND JASON KIDD. We’re going to find out who really has a game out East. We’re going to find out WHO WANTS TO PLAY AGAINST THE LAKERS. We’re going to find out if Richard Jefferson is as good as I THINK HE IS … IF ANYBODY IS GOING TO STOP PAUL PIERCE, I figure it’s going to have to fall on the ROOKIE that 13 TEAMS DIDN’T WANT … NEVER UNDERESTIMATE the motivational impact of being PASSED OVER OR AROUND.