Bill Walton is truly an American treasure. His work on Pac-12 games on ESPN and Pac-12 Network are something to behold. And while he talks about everything but the game, the way he does makes for some interesting television. Whether he works with Dave Pasch on ESPN or Ted Robinson or Roxy Bernstein on Pac-12 Network, Walton is certainly in his own world.
In this week’s edition of the New York Times Magazine, Sam Anderson tries to tap into Walton’s world and attempts to find out what makes him tick. While Anderson doesn’t necessarily find out, he does manage to hold his own with the former UCLA star and Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego Clippers and Boston Celtics center. During his time in San Diego, Anderson discovers that Walton doesn’t like being interviewed:
When I asked him why, there were 10 solid seconds of silence.
“You can be honest,” I said to him, finally, half joking.
This only seemed to upset him.
“Don’t ever say that,” Walton said. “That tells me that you don’t believe anything else I’ve told you to this point.”
And it gets better. Anderson engaged in a conversation that consisted of naming rivers in Oregon:
“Willamette River,” I said, speculatively.
“Willamette River,” he confirmed. And then he added: “McKenzie River.”
“McKenzie River,” I said.
“Santiam River,” he said.
“Columbia River,” I said.
“Nestucca River,” he said, gaining momentum. “Little Nestucca River.”
“Illinois River,” I said.
“Metolius River,” he said. “John Day River. Deschutes River.”
Anderson said he realized that this was Walton’s way of creating his own reality and centering him no matter where he is.
And during their two days together, Anderson said he and Walton listened to a lot of Grateful Dead. If you’re not familiar, the Dead is Walton’s favorite band and he manages to equate their songs to their surroundings or even former teammates.
Walton enjoyed listening to the Dead so much, it’s almost impossible to interrupt him:
This made Walton genuinely happy. He turned the volume up, then turned it up some more, until the music was the only thing in the car. Even when we reached our destination, when Walton pulled to the curb and the valet-parking attendant came over to take the keys, Walton couldn’t bring himself to leave: The flow was too strong. Interrupting it would have been sacrilege, so he waved the parking attendant away and turned the music up even louder.
While the article didn’t necessarily unveil anything new about Walton, it does give a little guide to the thoughts behind the man. Maybe one day, we’ll get a reality show of Walton and Dave Pasch traveling throughout the Pac-12 and that could be something to watch.