Where's Walton? ... The Encore: The Luckiest Guy in the World Says Goodbye From Sacramento
MONDAY, MAY 20: 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!
AURORA BOREALIS … THE ICY SKY AT NIGHT … PADDLES CUT THE WATER … IN A LONG AND HURRIED FLIGHT … FROM THE WHITE MAN TO THE FIELDS OF GREEN … AND THE HOMELAND WE’VE NEVER SEEN
|By Bill Walton|
The maxims of legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden spiral crazily through Bill's mind.
Success teaches us how hard PEACE and LOVE are to come by … IT TAKES ALL YOU’VE GOT … Things that are EASY, ARE NOT WORTH WHILE …WOODEN’S MAXIM’S are spiraling crazily through my mind …SOME FOLKS TRUST TO REASON … OTHERS TRUST TO MIGHT
Basketball, like life, IS NOT a game of size and strength. It’s a game of SKILL, TIMING and POSITIONING. It not how big you are, it’s how BIG YOU PLAY. It’s not high how you jump, it’s where you are and when you jump.
While I scratch my head and try to figure out HOW IT ALL WORKS, the questions keep pounding away. IF IT’S NOT ABOUT SIZE AND STRENGTH, why does Shaq have all of the money? Why does Wilt have 20,000 girlfriends? Coach Wooden always told us, there are so many more important things in life than material accumulation and physical gratification … LIFE IS TRULY ABOUT SUSTAINING EXCELLENCE and WINNING EVERY TIME … True happiness and joy comes from subjugating the ego and the self for the benefit of the team …GOT TO GET DOWN TO IT.
SPRING, BOSTON, ’86 …. After a wondrous day of trouncing and vanquishing another group of local losers, the Celtics celebrated mightily through the night. Someone interjected as the crescendo built, ‘Hey, guys. We’re getting real close. How about we make a vow right now that nobody takes another drink until WE WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP.’ A rousing chorus of ‘YEAH, I’LL DRINK TO THAT. LET’S GO!’ ‘GO CELTICS GO.’ …. Kevin McHale, ever the wise sage, the VOICE OF REASON and SANITY -- queried, ‘WE’RE GOING TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR, AREN’T WE?’ …
HOW MANY TIMES MUST A MAN LOOK UP BEFORE HE CAN SEE THE SKY?
JUNE, PORTLAND, ’77 … The Blazers championship parade …They told us as we exited the locker room the day before, TO BE DOWNTOWN … THE CITY WANTED TO THANK US …I rode my bike the few short blocks from home on NW Kearney Street. Little did I realize, I was entering the Grateful Dead parking lot. THE ENTIRE STATE OF OREGON TURNED OUT that day ---350,000 strong. As I entered the fray, I was immediately separated from my bike. I was PICKED UP and PASSED hand over hand, over the top of the crowd, up Broadway. Finally, being tossed up on to the stage where the dignitaries and generals with medals stapled to their chest, were basking in the glory of Blazermania. They handed me the microphone and I PLEADED TO GET MY BIKE BACK … I needed a way home. I THANKED EVERYONE FOR GIVING ME THE GREATEST LIFE THAT ANYBODY COULD POSSIBLY HAVE. Someone handed me a beer. I toasted the crowd and then took that beer and poured it over Mayor Neil Goldschmidt’s head.
Bill and 3 ½ million people filled the streets of Boston to celebrate the brilliance of Larry Bird and the 16th Celtics championship in June of 1986.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
JUNE, BOSTON, ’86 … NINE LOOOONG YEARS of trying to get back to something special … trying to get back to WHERE I BELONGED … This time, instead of 350,000 people in the state of Oregon, 3 ½ MILLION PEOPLE FILLED the streets of Boston to celebrate the brilliance of Larry Bird and the 16th CELTIC CHAMPIONSHIP. As we were driven through the streets of downtown Boston on HUGE military assault vehicles, the fans showed us all the LOVE that was in their OVERFLOWING HEARTS. Literally, everything IMAGINEABLE was being tossed up on to those trucks. We would sign autographs, exchange shirts, ponder the dizzying possibilities. Beers, like the shirts, were being swapped … We toast the crowd, take a big long swig and then toss the beer back, having absolutely the most DELIRIOUS TIMES OF OUR LIVES … The little assistant general manager, the man whose only job on earth was to add zeroes to Larry Bird’s contract, squirmed up to Kevin, Larry, Chief and me, shaking his head, much the way Nixon used to, and said, ‘Guys, THIS IS THE BOSTON CELTICS. This is not THE PLACE FOR this KIND OF BEHAVIOR.’ I looked at him and said, ‘THIS IS WHAT WE LIVE FOR!’ Then I took my beer and poured it over HIS HEAD … I’M SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING THINGS … FROM UPTIGHT, SHORT-SIGHTED, NARROW-MINDED HYPOCRITES … ALL I WANT IS THE TRUTH …JUST GIMME SOME TRUTH …
THE BAND HAS LEFT THE STAGE … WERE THEY EVER HERE AT ALL?…
AUGUST, SAN DIEGO, ’95 … I’m sitting at my piano early in the morning, DREAMING ALONG WITH MOZART, BEETHOVEN, TCHAIKOVSKY, CHOPIN, LISZT, BRAHAMS, BACH, MENDELSON, LARRY BIRD, JOHN WOODEN … WAITING FOR DIMITRI, MY GENIUS PIANO TEACHER, who, as a huge star in Russia, fled persecution, oppression and cruel negativity to come to America. Starting over, penniless, as he had to pay people off with everything he had TO GET OUT …HOW MANY YEARS CAN SOME PEOPLE EXIST BEFORE THEY’RE ALLOWED TO BE FREE? …The phone rings --- I NEVER answer the phone when I’m playing the piano … But like my dogs, ANNIE and LOMA, who know when I’m about to leave town, I reach out -- hesitantly -- for the jingling phone … It’s Frances, RamRod’s wife … Jerry is dead. … HE’S GONE … GONE …NOTHING’S GOING TO BRING HIM BACK … HE’S GONE …The funeral, a few days later, at St. Stephens Church on a hilltop of Marin County, overlooking our beautiful Bay, our beautiful city, our beautiful state … IT DOESN’T GET ANY WORSE THAN THAT … EVERYONE was there. Some people spoke – KESEY, HUNTER— most people could not. IT WAS THE SADDEST OF POSSIBLE DAYS because we all knew without having to say it, that THINGS WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN …
IT’S TOO MUCH PAIN AND TOO MUCH SORROW … GUESS I’LL FEEL THE SAME TOMORROW … WELL, THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME … THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME …MAYBE THE LAST TIME, I DON’T KNOW….
I HAVE NOT STOPPED CRYING…
THEY KILLED US IN OUR TEPEES … AND THEY CUT OUR WOMEN DOWN … THEY MIGHT HAVE LEFT SOME BABIES …CRYIN’ ON THE GROUND … BUT THE FIRESTICKS AND THE WAGONS COME … AND THE NIGHT FALLS ON THE SETTING SUN…
Things were never the same after the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia died.
When you’re part of something special, it changes your life. And you spend literally the rest of your days, trying to chase it down, trying to duplicate it … YOU NEVER UNDERSTOOD THAT IT AIN’T NO GOOD … YOU SHOULDN’T LET OTHER PEOPLE GET YOUR KICKS FOR YOU …I’ve learned the hard way THAT THINGS NEVER are the SAME again. That you can NEVER HOLD ON, that you CAN NEVER RECREATE something that once was … and you never know when you might get this way again ….
SAYING GOODBYE at the END of something perfect is always so PAINFUL, SO LONELY, so DIFFICULT, so life changing ….Walking out in the morning dew from another all night session with JERRY, BOB, NEIL and the GUYS … At the end of the day, at Tahquitz Falls, when the sun is dipping down behind the mountain and you’re climbing the boulders to stand in the last warming rays of golden sunshine … When you’re coming in from an incredible journey or adventure, coming in from the Galapagos, from the Sierra, from the Rockies, from Utah’s Red Rock Country …Coming in from a day-long bike ride, trying to make it home before dark …The last plane ride out, leaving Australia … Coming back from the Baja and its incredible grandeur and solitude -- when will the corruption, the violence, the devastation and smuggling stop?! Coming back after ONCE AGAIN having gone too far over the edge … LIKE I TOLD YOU … WHAT I SAID … STEAL YOUR FACE RIGHT OFF YOUR HEAD …
"Hey, Micky, thanks for driving the Train."
Courtesy Lori Walton
Saying goodbye to people you know you’re not going to see again for a VERY, VERY LONG TIME …LORI and THE DOGS, on the way out the door, for a road trip that’s FAR TOO LOOOONG … MOM and DAD, hoping that they’re going to still be there when you get back … KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR …COACH WOODEN, the same thing … KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR … But also, the people, who have FLASHED in for such a short time … CAPTAIN JACK and all of our drivers, who DELIVERED US SAFELY and rescued us on A DAILY BASIS … GUS ANGERMEYER and all of our guides …. MY SON NATE, WHO LIVES SO FAR, FAR AWAY …. When he went to PRINCETON six years ago, I put him on that last plane ride. My tears would not stop falling. Lori looked at me in bewilderment and said, ‘C’mon Bill. You’ve done nothing but yell at this guy for two years and now he’s leaving and you’re crying?’ … CARL SANDERS and RICK BARNER … WHY DO THE GOOD AND THE YOUNG ALWAYS HAVE TO LEAVE SO EARLY? … People who truly understand what a thermos of hot water is…KEVIN SMOLLON, JOHN GONZALEZ, TOM HAMMOND, STEVE JONES and JEFF SIMON --- the MERRIEST of BANDS -- Does Marv have any more daughters? …RALPH LAWLER, a pure genius with THE QUICKEST OF MINDS rivaling the anticipation of Larry Bird … ALL THE STRANGERS WHO SHOWERED US WITH INCREDIBLE ACTS OF KINDNESS, GENEROSITY, UNDERSTANDING AND LOVE … And finally, Aaron Ryan and John Hareas, who like RamRod and Big Steve, are the guys who really make the whole thing happen …
THEY MASSACRED THE BUFFALO … KITTY CORNER FROM THE BANK … THE TAXIS RUN ACROSS MY FEET … AND MY EYES HAVE TURNED TO BLANKS … IN MY LITTLE BOX AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS … WITH MY INDIAN RUG AND A PIPE TO SHARE…
One lucky fan sits with Bill at Game #2 of the Lakers-Kings series after losing his ticket outside ARCO Arena when he was swept up by the excitement of the "Love It Live!" Tour.
WHITTIER, CALIFORNIA, EARLY ’80s … BACK in DR. WAGNER’S office, ONCE AGAIN …Things are not going well … ISOLATED, LONELY … GOIN' DOWN THE ROAD FEELING BAD … GOING WHERE THE CLIMATE SUITS MY CLOTHES … GOING WHERE THE WATER TASTES LIKE WINE … GOING WHERE THOSE CHILLY WINDS DON’T BLOW … In my cubicle in this religious shrine for people whose feet just won’t get better. Everybody there is in wheelchairs or on crutches and I WAIT ENDLESSLY …Another patient, crutches, anxiously UP and DOWN the hall, waiting his turn … In his mid 20s, cut from stone, movie star looks … every time he passes my room, he stops and looks in, trying to make eye contact, trying to get my attention … I’m feeling miserable …I always look down, will not acknowledge him … FINALLY, after the sixth or seventh pass, this young Adonis, who is almost as good looking and studly as Aaron, crutches into my room, closes the door behind him … I’M TRAPPED … I’M STUCK …I KNOW I’M UP AGAINST IT NOW…I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why me? What DOES THIS GUY WANT! Leave me alone. I want to see the doctor. I want to get out of here. I’VE GOT THINGS TO DO.’
Young “Aaron” looked straight at me -- locked in -- eye contact that I could not escape … DEEP INSIDE MY HEART … I KNOW I CAN’T ESCAPE …
“Bill. I need some help.’
‘No problem. What do you want? An autograph? Do you want me come and speak at your kid’s school? Do you want me to tell your dad that USC and Notre Dame are really good schools?
‘No, Bill. Nothing like that. I need some advice. I need some direction in my life because Dr. Wagner just cut both of my legs off above my knees and I’m 27 years old and I’m having trouble staying positive and optimistic about what’s next in life for me.’
I felt like the most selfish schmuck in the world…AND HE STARES INTO THE VACUUM OF HIS EYES AND SAYS DO YOU WANT TO MAKE A DEAL .. HOW DOES IT FEEL?
When Dr. Wagner finally made HIS appearance, I was feeling MUCH BETTER ABOUT THINGS … He started talking about my problems – dying bones, amputation on the horizon …I HAD ONE OF THOSE FLASHES … I HAD BEEN THERE BEFORE … BEEN THERE BEFORE … My friends in the Band somehow found out. They sent me a LARGE aerial photograph of one of the shows --- 300,000 PEOPLE -- EVERYONE WAS THERE. The whole band signed it. It turned out to be a get-well card …DO YOU NEED ANYBODY … I NEED SOMEBODY TO LOVE ….
“WE’RE PULLING FOR YOU, BILL.” --- Jerry Garcia
“WE KNOW IT WILL TURN OUT FINE.” – Bob Weir
‘YOU’LL GET ’EM, BIG GUY.’ – Phil Lesh
“YOUR PRESENCE IS WITH US.” – Brett Mydland
“RISE ABOVE, BILL, RISE ABOVE.” -- Bill Kreutzmann
RamRod, Big Steve, Billy and Kid all signed on as well.
And then right across the drum heads, which were so dominant in this aerial photograph, amidst the balloons, the streamers, amidst the HAPPINESS and joys of everyone airborne while the Band played on, seemingly forever. Mickey Hart wrote across those drum heads.
“BILL, NEVER LOOK BACK.”
I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS … I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS…
Saying goodbye at the end of something as perfect as the "Love It Live!"Tour is painful, lonely, yet life changing, like walking out after another all night session with Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead
Every time I leave my house, I stop by that poster NOW FRAMED over my mantel. I put my open palm on it. As a last pause, a reflective meditation and sense of gratitude and thanks as I go out to try to make a difference …
I WISH I WAS A TRAPPER … I WOULD GIVE A THOUSAND PELTS … TO SLEEP WITH POCAHANTAS … AND FIND OUT HOW SHE FELT … IN THE MORNIN’ ON THE FIELDS OF GREEN … IN THE HOMELAND WE’VE NEVER SEEN
THANK YOU FOR MAKING MY DREAMS COME TRUE…
THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME THE GREATEST LIFE THAT ANYONE COULD EVER HAVE…
THANK YOU FOR MAKING THE "LOVE IT LIVE!" TOUR, A LIFE-CHANGING, ONE OF A KIND EXPERIENCE THAT I KNOW WILL NEVER COME AGAIN…
THANK YOU for your PATIENCE…
FARE YOU WELL, MY HONEY … FARE YOU WELL, MY ONLY TRUE ONE … GONNA LEAVE THIS BROKEDOWN PALACE … ON MY HANDS, ON MY KNEES … I WILL ROLL … ROLL … ROLL…
Bill, seated with his wife Lori in Salt Lake City during an early stop on the "Love It Live!" Tour, is the luckiest guy in the world.
As I find my own way home, I’m hoping against all hope, that LORI and the DOGS can find in THEIR HUGE HEARTS, COMPASSION AND FORGIVENESS and that they have not FORGOTTEN ME …maybe more importantly, THAT THEY CAN LEARN TO LOVE THE PERSON WHO I HAVE BECOME …
PEACE AND LOVE
AND MAYBE MARLON BRANDO WILL BE THERE BY THE FIRE …WE’LL SIT AND TALK OF HOLLYWOOD AND THE GOOD THINGS THERE FOR HIRE …AND THE ASTRODOME AND THE FIRST TEPEE … MARLON BRANDO … POCAHONTAS AND ME …MARLON BRANDO … POCAHONTAS AND ME…
I know I’m the LUCKIEST GUY in the world … I used to think that I was the happiest guy in the world, too. Until tonight, when I saw the fans RACING out of Arco … ONCE AGAIN, I got to be a PART OF SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL.
STRIKE ANOTHER MATCH … GO START ANEW … IT’S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE…