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 again as he "Loves it Live" by traveling to 30 NBA games in 30 days during NBA Playoffs 2002. Walton, who has been known to "tour" with the Grateful Dead, began his long, strange trip this weekend when he called games in Sacramento and Los Angeles, and then hopped in a jet for a cross-country flight to New York. Walton will file daily reports on NBA.com and a special "Where's Walton?" section will launch soon.

TUESDAY, APRIL 23: CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

By Bill Walton
“When your mother sends back all of your invitations ... won’t you come see me Queen Jane.” The bus rolled into the Queen City today and it’s amazing what a night’s sleep in an actual bed will do for you...


Bill and rapper Master P pause from their discussion about the beauty of the Where's Walton? "Love It Live" Tour to pose for the camera.
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE

The pace is accelerating, spiraling wildly out of control. The word is out, The Love It Live! Tour of America is taking over and people are clamoring to join this basketball love fest. We need a bigger bus and it’s only Day Four!...

A tour like this needs absolutely everything to fall into place or things could disintegrate quickly. Today, on the tightest of schedules, room service took over an hour to get here and it arrived at the door just as I was walking out. That fiasco kept me from a quiet reflective moment at one of my favorite spots in North Carolina, peaceful Lake Norman, just 25 miles outside of the Queen City. But I still had enough time though to get some special nanoseconds of peace and tranquility at Freedom Park and historic Myers Park, both relatively close to the pending action...

Speaking of freedom, I took a moment to reflect on the Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence (freedom from Great Britian), which was proclaimed in Charlotte in the spring of 1775, a full year before the U.S. Declaration of Independence... They got a head start on the rest of us there and I knew as I was coming in that this would be a strange, different trip because of the attempted coup and the threatened move to New Orleans. (Is Venezuela a stop on this tour?) How would the fans be? How would they react? For I know full well the importance of the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina to our great game of basketball...

March 23, 1974, one of the bleakest days in the history of college basketball if not Western Civilization, the double overtime giveaway against North Carolina State. I was talking with Coach Wooden about that just this morning and how much we would love to have that one back. The only thing that mitigates that absolute disaster is the fact that David Thompson was not only the greatest basketball player I ever played against in college but is, without question, one of the finest men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing...

Basketball is huge in North Carolina, at all levels. The colleges (Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State -- because of David. We would like to put in Wake Forest, but they haven’t been good since Billy Packer played --- with all due apologies to Tim Duncan, that have entertained and thrilled us for so many years...


Bill shares a moment with legendary high-flyer David Thompson, a member of the N.C. State team that shocked Walton's U.C.L.A. squad in double OT in 1974, courtside at The Hive.
Aaron Ryan/NBAE

And North Carolina is the home state and birthplace of so many of our NBA players. And the fans here love basketball as reflected in the incredible string of sellouts that they’ve had for so many years. Yet the fans who love this game so much seem caught in the middle of a very tough situation...

I’ve lived through this before in the old days, playing in the early ’80s for the San Diego Clippers and Paul Silas, the Hornets’ current coach and one of my real idols as a young player for his work not only on the court but through the Players Association and life in general. Paul was my coach at the Clippers and unfortunately I could not play due to injury. The team never came together and never caught fire and Paul so desperately wanted to punch me out. Eventually, the team left my hometown and the fans in the lurch...

I can empathize with the fans who came so ready for some great action. The folks who painted their bald heads and the faces of the young children so full of hope, optimism, anticipation. The most-creative-fan award to date on The Love It Live! Tour goes to the guy who, in the begging spirit of trying to improve the shooting in the NBA, brought the world’s largest red brick to the Hive...


"Will somebody please hit a shot?" Big Red asks. This fan earned Bill's hard-earned seal of approval by lugging his brick to the game in an interesting commentary on the game's shooting percentages.
Aaron Ryan/NBAE

Prior to the game, it was another raucous circus-like atmosphere and an eclectic band beyond description played on. They turned the place out and it reminded me of days gone by at Milwaukee’s Mecca and the old Houston Summit -- places that years ago were the wildest dance atmospheres that I've ever experienced at a basketball game...

One of the things that is becoming phenomenally apparent to me on this trip, where I actually get to sit and watch games and be a fan, is the number of old friends that I get to see. Besides David Thompson and Paul Silas, the names on the list of people who have shaped me into who I am are endless. Johnny Davis, now an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic and the man who, as a 20-year-old rookie out of Dayton went from a non-entity to become a late-in-the-playoffs starter for us -- due to injury to our starting guard, Dave Twardzik -- on the ’77 Blazers championship team, the youngest team in the history of the NBA to ever win the championship. The Blazers never would have won the championship without the emergence of Johnny Davis as a starter and a major contributor...

NBA STORE

Get your own Where's Walton "Love It Live" t-shirt
There were so may old friends before the game. Pat Williams, the Senior Vice President of the Magic, who has been such an inspiration to all of us for so many years. He has taught us how to truly love, appreciate and enjoy this game, to say nothing of life. In addition to old friends, there is my newest best friend, Master P and his son, Lil' Romeo. We had lots of laughs about his days in the NBA. While I kept encouraging Master P to chase his dreams, maybe they would come closer to reality if he played a little defense and passed the ball. He’s still delusionally convinced that he’s a shooter. He reminds me a lot of Steve Jones. It was nice to see the loving, caring and admirable relationship of Master P and Lil' Romeo, a dad with his young son at a ball game -- it doesn't get much better than that...

One of the strangest things I’ve witnessed in my entire life is the fact that here at Charlotte, at the Hive, they say a prayer over the P.A. before the game, as if it’s a natural progression right from the national anthem. As a firm believer that religion is strictly a personal matter and that there is the time-tested principle of our country that separates the secular from the religious world, I can only hum to myself Bob Dylan’s classic, “With God on Our Side.” I was reminded, as the fierce battle commenced, that if God is truly on our side, he’ll stop the next war...

And what a game it was. First of all, no Jamal Mashburn, when I swear I was watching TNT the other night and I saw Craig Sager interview the doctor who promised me that Jamal Mashburn would be fine. The doctor’s insurance check must have cleared Saturday night before his interview. And then to see Tractor Traylor lumbering up and down, even getting a slam dunk. I felt sorry for the floor. That guy needs to get in shape...

But it was so great seeing Patrick Ewing still out there doing what he can to make it happen for the team. I was a little concerned, though, that Patrick was spending so much time on the exercise cycle trying to stay loose and keep a sweat going, that I thought for a minute that he was training to compete against Lance Armstrong in this summer’s Tour De France...

BIG RED'S
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“People have been coming up to me and saying, ‘Bill don’t you every get tired of meeting the fans, taking pictures and signing the autographs?’ C’mon. How can you ever get tired of people being nice to you.”
The highlight of the game for me was the matchup of Tracy McGrady and Baron Davis. These guys are so good but unfortunately, they’re both hurt. I was with Tracy at the hotel prior to the game and it was sad to see this young 22-year-old Adonis unable to straighten up because of the pain in his back. Yet when he limped to the team bus, the throng of autograph seekers outside the hotel immediately energized him; he lit up and you could see that he was willing to do anything he possibly could to help the cause. Then Baron Davis -- so talented, so creative, so imaginative, so vibrant, so dynamic -- limping out there, knowing full well that he was doing further damage to his sore foot with every ensuing stride. But also well aware that this was the game that they had to have...

NBA basketball and particularly the playoffs are not a sprint. They’re a marathon, run at a sprinter’s pace...

As we staggered out, drained, limp and emotionally spent after what seemed like an endless game that dragged to a frustrating conclusion for the hometwon faithful the band rocked on trying to resurrect everyone’s spirits. We could only wonder: Was this the last time that we’ll ever be in Charlotte for an NBA game?? For yars now it’s been dangerous for opponents to get too close to The Hive. We can only hope now that the fans aren’t the ones who get stung here. They deserve better.