Cisco Technology Blog - Walton
Posted Jul 7 2008 2:38PM
We recently caught up with Hall of Famer and NBA Legend Bill Walton in his home in California to talk technology. Check out Bill’s thoughts and how technology plays a key role in his life.
1. What technological equipment and/or services did you use most often when you began playing in the NBA in 1974?
Bill Walton: Technology as we know it today did not exist in 1974. We had rotary dial telephones, three television networks, the local newspaper and AM and FM radio—and that was it. I did not have a phone book. I knew my parents’ phone number, Coach Wooden’s phone number, Jerry Garcia’s phone number and the NBA’s. That was all I needed.
2. What technological equipment and/or services do you use most today, professionally and personally?
Bill Walton: I try to use it all and I’m a big believer in “more is better.” Technology has changed my life and I anticipate, hope, dream and pray that technology will be able to save our planet, our garden, our world, with the two most pressing issues as we move forward as a species being energy production and resource management---always cognizant that if we don’t have clean air and clean water, we don’t have anything.
Along those lines, what I use spans the entire spectrum. Professionally I use a Blackberry (which doubles as my cell phone), a laptop, an iPod, a printer, flatscreen HD TVs, satellite TV, Satellite Radio, NBA League Pass and lots of exotic equipment that I cannot describe or define. That stuff all comes from The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart. It powers my drum system (Hydra II). Mickey sent the Grateful Dead crew to our home with a truckload of unreal equipment from Meyer Sound and the band’s personal vault. The mantra that Mickey keeps trying to bang into my head is Pro Tools and plug-ins. We like to play loud.
Personally, we try to incorporate everything imaginable to maximize our enjoyment of life’s treasures while minimizing our own personal carbon imprint on the garden, all the while utilizing energy efficiency sensors, water conservation techniques and near 100% recycling
3. What single technological product/service do you feel has changed your life most in the last 25 years? How?
Bill Walton: It would have to be wireless Internet because now time and space are no longer limiting factors in your life. You do what you want, when you want, where you want, how you want, and with and for whom you want.
4. What one networking technology do you feel you couldn’t live without today? Why?
Bill Walton: The Internet – it’s the world at your fingertips. I’m the son of a librarian who grew up believing in the value of knowledge and education. My whole life is about information and communication. And what could be better than working for ESPN, the NBA and Cisco, three companies that define those ideals.
5. As a broadcaster you are frequently on the road. What network devices and/or services are crucial for your job? Why?
Bill Walton: I’m on the road more than 200 nights a year. Size and weight mean everything. As I finish up my 18th year in broadcasting I’ve got my “must have” gear down to my Blackberry, my wireless laptop, my printer and my iPod. My whole job is about acquiring, assembling, analyzing and organizing information and the ability to communicate with the entire world. I must have constant, reliable and secure access to ESPN, ESPN.com, NBA.com, and NBA TV at all times. I find it hard to believe that we as broadcasters could do our job without all the technological advances that we have today.
I am old enough to remember having to reach out via hard/land-line phone service to the team PR people of the games that I would be broadcasting that week and asking them to mimeograph newspaper articles that were relevant to the upcoming game and then FedEx them to me wherever I was going to be on the road that week. My nickname around the league those days was “No Signature Required for Delivery.”
6. If you could only travel with one device that could access the network, outside of your cell phone, what would it be?
Bill Walton: My Blackberry, which allows me to manage my day and communicate effectively. Everything I need is always in my hands and I’m in complete control of my work and life. What I love most about my Blackberry is that it just works---it seems to have intuition. I love the fact that my Blackberry is built for corporate and consumer e-mail and complete Internet connectivity. It also has a terrific media player with a powerful music component that also allows me to watch movies and video. I love the security, reliability and efficiency of my Blackberry. My Blackberry has become what my desktop was 10 years ago. I can access everything and anything, and I utilize all of the latest technological applications. Plus my Blackberry allows me to be in complete touch with the world wherever I am.
As we move forward as a society and a culture, everybody wants more mobility and that is what my Blackberry provides – complete freedom---with the ultimate safe connection.
7. Are there devices or services that you use in your job that you wish were available in your personal life?
Bill Walton: My job and my personal life are the same. The great advantage of being on the ESPN/NBA team is the incredible resource of a supplemental staff and teammates for fresh ideas and additional research.
8. Your son Luke is a member of the Lakers and travels throughout most of the year. How do you keep in touch with him? What would make it easier? How does he leverage the NBA corporate network?
Bill Walton: When I was 27 I wasn’t looking to hang with my parents very much. Luke likes and we respect and appreciate his independence. But while Luke is just a relative newcomer to the NBA game and world, he is much more technologically savvy than I am. All four of our children are. Luke is very much into technology. He loves all the new gadgets. And being in L.A. and part of the Lakers--the NBA’s most popular team these days—provides him with opportunities beyond belief. Luke loves his text messaging, which I haven’t made the leap to---he says it’s an efficient way to communicate given the demands of being in the NBA but it’s still something I can’t quite figure out. He uses his email regularly and is an avid consumer of technology, particularly the advantages of staying connected through the Internet while holding on to the wild ride that is life at the top of the NBA.
One of the major differences in life today that is a direct result of the technological revolution is that we are totally able to choose our own friends, follow our own interests, and be involved in things that matter to us regardless of where we are and what time of day it is.
For people like Luke who are fortunate enough to be in the NBA and have a circle of friends around the globe, the Internet is the perfect way to maintain the life that you want by staying connected to your friends and family regardless of time and place.
9. Talk about the symbiotic relationship between the NBA and technology. In what ways do you feel technology has shaped the NBA, and in what ways do you feel the NBA (and professional sports today) has influenced the development of technology for both players and fans?
Bill Walton: There are two different components to the NBA. One is basketball, the other is business. The NBA is at the forefront of the technological revolution on both fronts and has always used education and information as tools to get ahead of the game..
On the sporting side the enormous technological ability to observe and analyze has catapulted the NBA to its highest levels ever. Each and every aspect of the game has been pushed ahead by technological applications that we are just beginning to fully incorporate and comprehend. You name it and there is sure to be a technical aspect with an advantage to be gained involved. From scouting, training, player development, nutrition, health, fitness, mental training, travel, strategy, adjustments, analysis---the list is endless.
On the business side, the visionary leadership of David Stern and his team realize that the sports fan and the entertainment world are very particular, extremely demanding, and constantly in need of more of the best. As a sports fan and entertainment consumer I want what I want, when I want it, and where I want it. With an ever demanding consumer base that is pressed and pinched for time and money, the NBA is delivering quality content and product to a huge, global consumer base that is extremely valuable to its advertisers.
That ability to pinpoint what the consumer demands and expects is the greatest challenge for the NBA in terms of e-mail alerts and specific content programming. DVR’s are something that every content provider, advertiser and consumer now factors into every decision. The pinpoint use and analysis of statistics and historical relevance and significance is also something that drives the economic engine of everything that we do at ESPN and the NBA.
At the Super Bowl this year on the back of every seat there was a video screen that allowed fans to get whatever they wanted. In a blink of the eye, this will all be a ubiquitous feature in our lives----with everything ultimately gravitating to our own individual hand-helds. Screen size will be a personal choice, delineator and separator.
Visionaries like Paul Allen and Mark Cuban have come to the NBA from the technology world and their contributions have definitely shaped and driven the NBA.
The NBA’s annual All-Star Technology Summit is the ultimate gathering of industry leaders and experts that not only sheds light on current trends but identifies future developments in the fast-changing, pace-setting world of digital media.
The insatiable demand for all things NBA is also a driving force for new innovations. Life’s greatest successes are a result of series of correct decisions. The creativity and imagination of the game and its players are breeding grounds for what’s next.
10. What technology is the NBA using to keep fans “connected” today?
Bill Walton: The NBA covers all of its bases with NBA.com and its 10 global web sites, television, print, NBA TV, League Pass, the NBA Daily, e-mail alerts and Satellite radio… Technology enables the league to always stay in front of the consumer and on the tip of the tongue of every sports conversation that takes place in the world.
We’ve already seen how the NBA utilizes Cisco technology to expand the way the league connects with fans worldwide, whether it’s in the comforts of your home or in the arenas. Improving the fan experience and developing consumer loyalty is what the NBA and Cisco are all about. It’s also a partnership that extends to the local communities as well. The NBA and Cisco take their corporate responsibilities very seriously. We recently saw the latest in this ongoing commitment in New Orleans during the All-Star Weekend when Cisco provided funding, educational and technical resources to renovate 30 Family Resource Centers.
The NBA and Cisco are so very much alike----they both bring it every day.
11. Is there one that you think is the most cool? And maybe most unknown?
Bill Walton: I like it all, but as Neil Young sings---“Why do they make me choose between the things I like best”…..Two technologies that are intriguing and particularly useful to me are Amazon’s/Qualcomm’s Kindle and then Slingbox.
My life is a mobile one, always on the road and the run, been that way for 38 years now. But with my Kindle and Slingbox I never miss a beat. I like information and entertainment. It’s truly amazing how we are now able to create our own virtual reality and how stunningly portable everything is. It all just comes straight away to you.
And now with the emergence of Cisco’s Tele Presence things just keep getting better all the time. I’m dizzy with the possibilities of tomorrow.
12.What technology(ies) do you foresee most influencing fans’ consumption of basketball in the future (e.g., HD, Internet, video-on-demand)?
Bill Walton: Any application that networks people with similar interests is the future. People want to be part of the team. We want to be in the action and actively involved in the game of life.
Tele Presence is a major leap forward in bringing us all together. And with the ever-more-powerful switches that Cisco keeps rolling out real time is almost here.
In the days ahead everybody will have more of everything—and the prophetic words of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir will ring louder and truer than ever before---“Were they ever here at all” ????
It will all be wireless, it will all be HD. DVR’s and VOD will be omnipresent and people will be able to do everything they want on their handheld unit.
But I still like the live action and being there as it happens, as history is being made, with the anticipation, drama and suspense captured perfectly on my big flat-screen TV in high definition. We’ll all be there, connected by Tele Presence. The ball will be in the air to decide the fate of Western Civilization one more time. The emotional roller coaster of life will be impossible to hold on to as the wheel turns ever faster. There will be quicker, clearer, and more reliable delivery of the content. Give me everything, deliver it when I’m able to consume it, and put it right there in front of me wherever I am.
Every time this wheel turns ‘round it seems new technologies that nobody could envision yesterday come to blow us away one more time.
Times will change, technology will change, people will change, the players will change, but it’s still the NBA. It’s still the world’s greatest game played by the world’s greatest, fittest and most skilled athletes.
Want more? Bookmark www.nba.com/techblog and visit us soon as we check in with other notable basketball contributors like Shane Battier, Grant Hill, Magic Johnson, Tim Chen and others!