Bill Walton gets emotional sharing story of Washington walk-on Connor Smith (Video)

Bill Walton became emotional on live TV while sharing the story of Washington walk-on Connor Smith during Thursday’s telecast of UCLA’s 91-82 win over the Huskies in Seattle.

Connor Smith WashingtonSmith, a senior from Wenatchee, Wash., was a standout at Wenatchee High School but health issues kept him from pursuing a college basketball career despite having scholarship offers. The 6-foot-9 big man dealt with stress fractures and degenerate disks in high school and was limited to just playing intramural sports in college, according to a story about him in The Olympian.

But after blocking the shot of one of the Huskies’ best players during a pickup game in his freshman year, Smith was convinced he could play at the top level. However, he had a serious health issue during the fall of his junior year.

As Walton related in his “Walton’s World” segment during ESPN2’s telecast, Smith spent 11 days in the hospital in Oct. 2012 to treat an internal bacterial infection in his pelvic area.

After recovering from the surgery, Smith decided to make a run at making the basketball team.

Smith got in contact with the team’s video coordinator and then with a few other walk-ons, and he was eventually invited by coach Lorenzo Romar to be a walk-on for the team. It helped that Smith was 6-foot-9, skilled, and had won MVP at Romar’s camp in 6th grade. It probably also didn’t hurt that his father, Alan, played for Washington during the ’70s.

Smith did not get into Thursday’s game, but he played seven minutes this season and even scored his first basket in a blowout win over Oregon State last month. He and Walton developed a friendship after he shared his story with Walton before a previous Huskies game for which Walton served as an analyst.

“Bill Walton and I, we’re homies,” Smith told The Olympian regarding his relationship with Walton. “Without this whole experience, I wouldn’t have ever been able to talk to people like that.”

As a big man whose career was cut short by multiple injuries, Walton could relate to Smith’s experience. In a 2010 LA Times article, Walton detailed the severe back pain he lived with that put his broadcasting career on hold. The pain was so bad Walton revealed that he contemplated suicide.

As someone who had been where Smith was, Walton knew exactly what the young man had overcome and that’s probably why he became so emotional sharing the great story.

H/T The Big Lead

Bill Walton has no idea who Andrew Luck is (Video)

Bill-WaltonBill Walton is a basketball guy. The two-time NBA and NCAA champion was one of the best players of his generation, and he has entertained us on numerous occasions as a basketball analyst and commentator. Just don’t ask him about football.

Walton was calling the Stanford-Colorado game alongside Dave Pasch on Wednesday night when the ESPN camera crew spotted Andrew Luck in the audience. Luck was there to support his alma mater, and Pasch asked Walton what he thinks of the Indianapolis Colts quarterback as a player. Crickets followed.

“He plays for the Colts,” Pasch said.

Walton replied with an awkward mumble and chuckle before Pasch wisely turned the attention back to the basketball game. The two-time NBA All-Star may know enough about Ray Lewis’ legal troubles to make a limousine joke here or there, but that doesn’t mean he’s a big NFL guy. I’m sure that’s the last time Pasch will put Walton on the spot with an incredibly simple football question.

Video via College Spun

Bill Walton jokes about Bill Simmons suspension, Ray Lewis limousine

Bill-WaltonBill Walton had a night for the ages while he was calling the Pac-12 Tournament game between Washington and Oregon on Thursday night. Those who are familiar with Walton know that the NBA legend has never shied away from saying what’s on his mind and telling the truth. That was certainly the case on Thursday night while he was working for ESPN, and I’m sure the network has already spoken to him about some of his comments.

For starters, there was Walton’s bold remark about spending time in a limousine with Ray Lews:

As you may know, a limo had a lot to do with Lewis’ murder trial back in 2000. One witness who was riding in a limo with Lewis said she saw another passenger get out and dump a laundry bag, which many believe contained Lewis’ bloodstained white suite that was never recovered, into a garbage bin outside a fast food restaurant. Walton’s partner Dave Pasch quickly and uncomfortably changed the subject.

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Bill Walton says his back pain got so bad that he had suicidal thoughts

Bill-WaltonBill Walton looks like an upbeat guy who has everything going for him to those of us who are used to seeing him in the broadcaster’s booth, but that has not always been the case. Prior to 2009, Walton suffered through excruciating chronic back pain that impacted every aspect of his life. In Feb. of 2009, Dr. Steven Garfin of Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UC San Diego performed a complicated surgery on Walton that allowed him to return to broadcasting and may have literally saved his life.

“When you are in unrelenting, excruciating and debilitating pain that never goes away for years on end, your life is over,” Walton told Richard Deitsch of SI.com. “You go through the stages of thinking you are going to die to wanting to die to the worst possible stage of all which is: I’m going to live and this is what I’m stuck with. But I got better and it is amazing what they have been able to do for me. I can think. I can sleep. I can move. I can ride my bike. I can dream.”

The procedure involved four incisions, four four-inch bolts, two titanium rods and a cage. Yes, all for a human being. Walton says that he is pain-free now and that the surgery was a “miracle.” Prior to the procedure, Walton said he gained strength from friends and family who urged him daily to keep fighting and steered him away from thoughts about suicide.

“I am busier than ever, happier than ever, and I haven’t been this healthy since high school,” he explained. “It’s a miracle what has happened to me. I have no pain. I take no medication. I had no idea what life was like without back pain.”

When an old-timer tells you ‘They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” tell them they’re right — they make them better. If not for advances in medical science, Walton would not be living a normal life. Or worse yet, he may not be alive at all.

Radio Show Hangs Up on Bill Walton

The morning after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, a radio show invited Bill Walton on as a guest and then hung up on him.  Any idea what city that radio show was based out of?  If you guessed Boston, then good for you.

Fred “Toucher” Toettcher did on Friday morning what Mike Francesa should have done to Steve Phillips when he came on the air and claimed he’d trade Stephen Strasburg for Roy Oswalt straight up — cut him off and move along with the show.  The Toucher and Rich Morning Show, 98.5 The Sports Hub Boston’s morning slot, decided a few games back in the series to have Hall of Famer Bill Walton appear as a guest when the series ended.  When Walton got on the air on Friday morning and began gushing about how happy he was for his son (who logged a whopping zero minutes, zero seconds in the game) for winning his second championship and bragging about the Lakers, they cut him off like he was some pee-on caller.

Apparently “Toucher” assumed that the former Celtic — who won a championship with Boston in 1986 — would be slightly more objective and act as more of an analyst than a proud daddy.  Keep in mind that as a Celtic fan I’m extremely biased with my reaction to this, but it honestly could be what gets me through my day today.  They gave Walton a pretty fair shot and let him talk for a few minutes until it became clear he was only going to salt the wounds of the show’s painfully disappointed fan base.  Bill probably didn’t help his own cause when he said something along the lines of, “After stealing Game 2 in LA, the Celtics had a chance to come home and win three straight and couldn’t get it done.”  Three straight in the NBA Finals.  That easy, huh Bill?

Bill Walton Takes Shaq to Task

I remember watching Walton’s criticism of Shaq air on ESPN Sunday. I thought it was harsh and poignant, and most of all, accurate. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I was in agreement with Walton’s assessment. Well, come to find that Walton’s comments have created somewhat of a stir that resulted in a response from Shaq. Thankfully Tom Ziller posted the video at FanHouse (via Ballhype) for our viewing pleasure. (If you don’t have time to watch the video, you can read some of the exchange instead).

Walton nails it here. Shaq is in a lose-lose situation if you think about it; he plays well, we all wonder what happened in Miami and think he gave up. He plays poorly, then we were all right that he had nothing left. And Shaq’s defense of attacking Walton’s career is a lame one. Shaq has the right to claim scoreboard on nearly anyone he encounters. Having to resort to that argument means Shaq really had no proper defense for Walton’s comments. I’m surprised after all these years that Shaq hasn’t learned that missing/tanking/being lazy during the regular season leaves him open to public criticism.