Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled Throw It Down, Big Man

Check out Pat Jordan's 2001 New York Times profile of Bill Walton:

Bill Walton, his family and friends are sitting beneath a flapping Grateful Dead banner in the tropical-forest backyard of his San Diego home discussing the day's news. ''Oh . . . I . . . love . . . reading . . . the . . . newspaper,'' Walton says in the same insufferably pompous-sounding voice he uses as a TV basketball analyst.

He is quizzing his sons on what they read in the newspapers that day. One mentions an article about the friendship between Albert Einstein and the Indian poet-mystic Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore wrote of Einstein, ''My salutation is to him who knows me imperfect and loves me.''

Walton nods. Ah . . . yes. . . . That . . . reminds . . . me . . . of . . . something . . . Jerry . . . Garcia . . . once . . . said. . . . ''

Here's what most people know about Walton. He is 48 years old, just shy of seven feet tall and was recently named one of the 50 greatest N.B.A. players in history. For the past 11 years, he has worked as an N.B.A. television analyst whose absolutist proclamations on the game, delivered in that voice, often make fans furious and confused.

What people don't know about Walton is that he works very hard at perfecting his pompous-sounding speech because every time he opens his mouth he is terrified that no words will come out. He has had a debilitating stutter all his life.

My favorite part of the piece is when the Walton boys play basketball in the backyard.

Not everybody loved Jordan’s story. Here is a letter the Times published on November 25, 2001:

In the 20 years since I wrote about the Portland Trail Blazers in an earlier book, Bill Walton and I have become good friends, and I have spent a good deal of time with him and with his sons (Pat Jordan, Oct. 28). The relationship between father and sons has always struck me as loving, supportive and mutually generous; I think it is not unimportant that in a home where the father let all of his sons follow their own stars, all four wanted to play basketball. More important, what Pat Jordan missed was the story right in front of him: the rarest kind of courage and exuberance on the part of an athlete, once gifted, whose ability to maximize the uses of his body is so critical to his psyche but is now so seriously jeopardized by the cruelest kind of injuries to both feet.

David Halberstam
New York

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