Welcome the Big RedHead back to the ariwaves! (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Welcome back to the airwaves, Bill Walton. He will be returning to ESPN to announce Pac-12 Games this season, along with doing some work with Sacramento Kings games (I might actually have to watch those now.)
This is big news for the new Pac-12 deal with ESPN, and big news for all Bruins fans as we get the legendary Walton possibly calling our games on ESPN, who will undoubtedly wax poetic about his days at UCLA and playing for Coach Wooden. Good to know that someone out there understands how to build a brand. It is also big news for Walton himself, as he finally is healthy enough to resume a hectic schedule of travel and commentating.
As you may recall, Walton has had problems with his back and spine for years, leading him to collapse in an airport in 2007. He said he spent "three years on the floor" trying to deal with the pain.
After 36 orthopedic surgeries, Walton has fused ankles and a fused spine.
"And my knees, hands and wrists don't work," he said. "Other than that, everything is fine. I'm doing great. I'm starting over. I'm excited as can be about tomorrow. I'm the luckiest guy in the world."
Walton at UCLA was a three time Naismith player of the year, a two time NCAA champion, a two time NCAA Final Four most outstanding player, three time consensus All American, and an Academic All American. His number has been retired by UCLA, and the player Coach Wooden loved to needle.
We don't have details about how often Walton will work, or who he will be working with as of yet:
Asked how often he'll work games, Walton sounds as if he's not sure or doesn't care — or both. "I'll just say that some will say I'll do too many and others will say too few," he said. And he isn't worried about whom he'll work with on-air: "That's jumping way ahead."
Walton credits riding a bicycle with helping to rebuild his life. He even told the surgeon that before going under:
He remembers the anesthesia kicking in when he had his life-changing 2009 operation, and grabbing his surgeon to say, "Please help me. Please give me a chance to ride my bike again."
This is great for the Pac-12's exposure, and in particular, UCLA's as we have one of our biggest proponents out there calling our games (I hope) and hopefully coming up with some brand new Waltonisms. Here is my favorite:
Exchange between Bill and Tom Hammond: John Stockton is one of the true marvels, not just of basketball, or in America, but in the history of Western Civilization!
Tom: Wow, that's a pretty strong statement. I guess I don't have a good handle on world history.
Bill: Well Tom, that's because you didn't go to UCLA.