Bill Walton: Biography highlights
Bill Walton is an authentic and true original who personifies greatness and is one of the most compassionate figures in sport with an extraordinary record of giving back through his work with numerous charities and non-profits.
Full biography of Bill Walton
Bill Walton’s Background
Basketball legend Bill Walton is one of sports’ most recognizable and beloved figures. His success on the court is well-documented; the nation’s top college basketball star at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden, he then played for two NBA Championship teams –the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics. But Bill’s nightmarish challenges off the court are less known. He stuttered so badly he couldn’t say a simple “thank you” until he was 28 years old. A foot disorder led to 38 surgeries on his feet, legs and back –keeping him sidelined over half of his NBA career.
Armed with grit and a positive outlook, Bill improbably overcame it all. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and named to the “50 Greatest NBA Players of All-Time” list. After his playing career, Bill pursued broadcasting; he is currently covering Pac-12 games on ESPN. Bill Walton has led a life of humility in service of inspiring others. His autobiography, Back from the Dead, was a New York Times bestseller and he is perhaps the best-known Deadhead, having seen over 1,000 shows.
Bill has a passion — for his work, for family and friends, for music, for life and for greatness! He brings his outsize passion to the stage and inspires audiences with tales from an improbable life in sport and beyond speaking about the secrets of world-class performance, personal and organizational excellence and how he overcame nearly impossible odds – on the court and off – to persevere and win. As entertaining as he is insightful, Walton is widely considered one of the best speakers from the world of sports.
- One of most recognizable sports figures; named to “50 Greatest NBA Players of All-Time” list; Basketball Hall of Fame member
- Played for two NBA Championship teams – Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics
- Most-injured player in NBA history; embodies grit and resilience. Journeyed through despair and 37 surgeries to ultimately triumph
- Overcame lifelong stuttering affliction to pursue broadcasting – currently covering Pac12 games on ESPN
- Colorful uber-Deadhead – having seen over 870 shows
- Author, 2016 New York Times bestseller Back from the Dead
The lessons Bill learned on the basketball court became life lessons that served him well throughout his sports, broadcasting and business careers. No lesson was more important than the words from the legendary John Wooden, Bill’s basketball coach at UCLA, who simply said “Do your best.” Wooden never asked players to go out and win – simply to do their best and not beat themselves. Walton never forgot those words which helped him throughout his extraordinary career.
Following a celebrated college basketball career, Walton went on to have a Hall of Fame NBA career. After basketball, Walton pursued his dream job as a sports broadcaster – but first had to overcome the lifelong stuttering affliction. And then, in 2008, Walton endured risky back surgery for to repair damage done early in his basketball career. Through it all, Walton’s determination carried him through.
Bill was introduced to the game of basketball while in the fourth grade at Blessed Sacrament Elementary School. Walton then attended Helix High School, where his team won the California Interscholastic Federation High School title two years in a row, while winning their final 49 consecutive games. While at Helix, Walton became the first and only high school player to ever make the U.S.A. Senior Men’s National Basketball Team and play in the World Championship and/or Olympics.
Walton enrolled at UCLA in 1970. He played center for John Wooden’s varsity team for three seasons (1972-1974), after a year with the freshman team in 1971. He was a member of two NCAA championship teams compiling an NCAA record 88 consecutive game winning streak.
In 1972, ’73 and ’74 Walton was named NCAA Player of the Year Award. He is a three-time All-American College Player and winner of the Sullivan Award for the United States Best Amateur Athlete of 1973. Bill was named to the Pacific 8 All-Conference first team three times and was conference player of the year for three consecutive years. At UCLA Walton was a scholar-athlete who also earned Academic All-American honors three years in a row. He graduated with honors with a B.A. in history. Walton also attended Stanford University Graduate School of Law in the early 1980’s.
Walton’s professional career began when he was the number one overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers. He was a member of their championship team in 1977. Nine years later he earned another championship title, this time with the Boston Celtics in 1986. He played with the Trailblazers 1974-1979, the San Diego Clippers 1979-1984, the relocated Los Angeles Clippers in 1985 and The Boston Celtics 1985-1988.
Walton was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, 1978; All-NBA First Team, 1978; NBA All-Star Team, 1977 and 1978; NBA Playoff’s MVP, 1977; All-NBA second team, 1977; winner of the NBA Sixth Man Award, 1986. Walton is one of only four players in the history of basketball to have won multiple NCAA and multiple NBA Championships.
Walton is also the second of only five players in the history of the NBA to lead the league in both blocked shots and rebounding in the same season. In 1991 Walton received the NBPA’s Oscar Robertson Leadership Awards. In 1993 Walton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1997 Walton was selected as one of the NBA’s Fifty Greatest Players of All Time. Also in 1997 Walton was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.
After retiring from basketball Bill began his broadcasting career in 1990 as an analyst for the then Prime Ticket Network. Walton worked for CBS Sports in the early 90’s and then for NBC for many years, including work on the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games. Over his career he’s also done broadcasting work for ABC, ESPN, FOX, MSNBC, Turner Sports, KCAL, NESA and the NBA. Walton has been nominated for numerous Emmy Awards and in 2001 won an Emmy for Best Live Sports Television Broadcast. The southern California Sports Broadcasters Association has several times honored Walton with the Best Television Analyst/Commentator Award. In 2009, Walton was named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all time by the American Sportscasters Association.
In June 21, 2001, Walton was named as the inaugural inductee into the Grateful Dead Hall of Honor.
Love of sports runs in the Walton family. Bill and his older brother Bruce (UCLA 1973) are the only brother combination in history to have played in the Super Bowl and to have won an NBA Championship.
Bill and his third son Luke is only the third father/son pairing to have ever won NBA Championships. They are also the only father/son combination in history to have each won multiple NBA Championships. Walton is active with many organizations and charities. For his efforts, in 2002 he received the NBA Retired Players Association Humanitarian Award.
He is executive chairman of Connect SD Sport Innovators (SDSI), a non-profit, business-accelerating, trade organization that connects and drives the growth of Southern California’s vibrant sports economy by offering innovative programs and services for startups, mature companies and service providers. Walton is also a board member for the Junior Seau foundation. Walton is also involved in numerous Internet ventures, providing content and business acumen.
Bill Walton is author of Back from the Dead (March, 2016) and Nothing But Net. He currently resides in his hometown of San Diego with his wife Lori. They are the proud parents of four sons: Adam, Nathan, Luke and Chris and the lucky grandparents of Olivia, Chase, Parker, Avery, Patrick, Lawson and Wilhelmina.
Watch Bill in action
“What a special night! I thank you again for sharing your life, your passions, and pouring your soul out to us last night. Itwas incredibly moving and we all appreciate your time with us. I also really enjoyed our one on one time when it was all said and done. You exceeded my expectations. Everyone continued to talk about you today at the conference.”
“Bill was fantastic! He was easy to work with, very approachable and his passion about health and the healthcare industry was evident throughout his speech. Although we asked him to be at the venue about 25 minutes before his speech, he came early to hear our CEO speak and also stopped by our Women’s Leadership Panel earlierin the morning, which was much appreciated. Additionally, Bill is an inspiration and everyone walked away from the speech commenting about how engaged they were throughout the whole hour. We’d definitely work with him again!”
Farm Journal Media
“He’s funny………boy did he COMMIT to the event. He came to our opening reception for like 2 hours and sat and talked to people! And he stayed after he spoke and took pictures for a full hour. He really was super about doing anything we asked of him. “
Utah Clean Air Partnership
“To be honest, our board of directors questioned my recommendation of Bill as the keynote speaker. After the event, they apologized for questioning me…profusely. We are not sure how we will top Bill’s passion and the memorable delivery he gave at next year’s event. Bill was a true professional and took the time to study our issue and audience like no speaker I have booked before. We are still getting comments on how good the program was months after the fact. I give my highest recommendation for Bill Walton as a keynote or corporate speaker, amazing.”
“Everything went great! He was a perfect fit for our demographic and clientele and was happy to talk the evening away… I had to tell him it was time to go! The event was a success, thank you for your help.”
“Bill Walton was great. Personable, entertaining, professional, welcoming, interesting. We had great feedback about him. He was a real pleasure to work with. At our Thursday night reception, he stayed until 930 or so! He spoke to everyone who came up to him. That night, he signed everything we gave him. He was an overwhelming success!”
Fresno County Farm Bureau
“NBA Legend Bill Walton delivered an intimate and inspirational message that was tailored to our organization. He was very personable and well-received by our audience.”
National Sporting Goods Association
“We had Bill Walton at our event a few years ago-he did an unbelievable job! Very engaging with our members during a private meet & greet, and, joined the attendees at the opening reception. I’d highly recommend him to other groups.”
“What a fantastic presentation you shared with our team at Plug and Play this week. Your message was inspirationaland everyone raved about how much they enjoyed the time with you. I love how open and honest you were and how you conveyed your message through storytelling.”
Connecting Point Marketing Group (CPMG)
“Bill was fantastic! The crowd loved him and it was great to get to know him. He stayed for the entire night, signed autographs, took pictures. I’ll have to think about our future events and hope to have him again!”
“So many raves! The response to our event has been awesome. Your speech was upbeat and on target! I wish I had your recall for names! You also impressed a great many people by staying an extra hour and a half to sign autographs and take more pictures. Not one guest in 22 years has done that.”
Irving Place Capital
“It was an amazingly, spectacular event with Mr. Walton. Our customers and guests were blown away with his genuineness — intelligence — outlook on life and compassion toward others — and their “one and lifetime” opportunity to meet a living legend. Bill went out of his way to make EVERY person in the room feel like they mattered — and he personally spent time talking to each of them. Simply unbelievable, which an email can not describe.”
San Diego Entrepreneurs Organization
“From the bottom of my heart, Thank You. Your talk was wonderful. The crowd loved you. It touched on such important and current topics. Lunch was amazing! There aren’t enough words. All I can say is, “Let’s do it again!”…soon!”
Association of Southern California Defense Counsel
“I have never received more positive feedback about one of our guest speakers and please believe me when I say a room full of lawyers is a very tough crowd. In describing your presentation, I heard the words “inspiring,” “motivating,” “positivity” and “amazing” multiple times. I think it would be a good idea for you to give your presentation on national television to our entire country, as I think you are just what we need to get inspired, motivated and to bring some positivity to everyone.”
“Without a pun, you are larger than life. Rarely have I had the pleasure of talking and sharing with someone as forthcoming as you displayed. And, it is even more rare to find a celebrity who is willing to give of his time so graciously. You deserve respect for all your achievements and maintaining a sense of civility – keeping down to earth and all things in perspective.”
Preston Estate Planning
“Bill’s performance at our event was funny, insightful, authentic and captivating. He carefully tied in the principles he was talking about with the characteristics of our firm, for which we owe him a large debt of gratitude. The Q&A session that followed his remarks was spectacular. Each question he answered, was done in a fashion that left you with the impression that it was the first time he had ever been asked these questions. In a word, it was fresh.”
Bill's speaking topics
Rising to the Challenge
“Those not willing to risk going too far will never know how far they can go.” Those words from Bill Walton sum up his philosophy of life. At 6’ 11” in his Grateful Dead tie-dyed t-shirt, Bill Walton is one of the most recognizable and colorful sports legends ever. He also has one of the greatest can-do attitudes you’ll ever encounter.
It’s a mindset he’s cultivated and he gives it credit for helping him adapt, persevere, and ultimately succeed in challenges on and off the court. Named one of “50 Greatest NBA Players of All Time,” Bill incredibly missed 9½ of his 14 NBA seasons due to injuries related to orthopedic problems. Despite that, his achievements on the court were enormous. When his storied career ended with his 30thsurgery, Bill’s dream was to pursue sports broadcasting. One problem: a severe lifelong stutter that prevented him from even saying a simple “thank you.” Undeterred, Bill set about the task of learning to speak.
He conquered stuttering and found a place behind the mic -earning numerous awards and honors since. Bill’s greatest test came in 2007 when severe back pain confined him to the floor of his home for 2½ years. Finally relenting to surgery in 2009, the grueling rehab and recovery from that 37thsurgery could well be Bill’s biggest achievement. While Bill exclaims regularly, “I’m the luckiest guy on Earth,” it’s clear his outlook on life helped create that luck. Bill loves to inspire audiences to rise to the challenge of seeing just how far they can go.
My 38 surgeries - A journey from injury to recovery
Bill Walton has the dubious distinction of being the most-injured player in NBA history. After 38 surgeries, the basketball superstar knows a thing or two about injuries, rehabilitation, and recovery. He knows what patients go through –and what caregivers and healthcare professionals go through. He can speak to both audiences authentically.
In his 14-year pro career Bill missed a total of 9½ full seasons due to injury.Even so, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and won numerous awards and honors for his brilliant play. Imagine his impact on the game had he stayed healthy! Bill’s feet, knees,and back -the foundation of his ability to perform as an athlete -let him down.
His most serious surgery was to straighten his spine after spending 2½ years on the floor of his home in agonizing pain –literally unable to move and contemplating suicide.Now back in the game of life, Bill remains active on his bike –participating in several week-long charity biking events for groups like Challenged Athletes Foundation. He also speaks to audiences of patients, healthcare professionals, and those from allied fields -delivering an inspiring message about his own healing and recovery.
What great Coaches taught me about Leadership
Create a Team that Rocks
What separates great teams from everyone else? Basketball legend Bill Walton knows and speaks from experience. Bill played on two championship teams under revered UCLA coach John Wooden. Those teams contributed to the Bruins’ 88-game winning streak, still the record in men’s basketball more than 40 years later. Bill was also a two-time NBA champion; with the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics. Of course, it’s not possible to appreciate great teamwork unless you’ve seen the other side of that coin and Bill experienced that as well during his time with the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers.
After Bill’s playing days ended, broadcasting offered him the perfect perch from which to watch extraordinary teams perform. Throughout his business endeavors, Bill applied the teamwork lessons he learned from sports with astonishing success. In this keynote speech, Bill talks about the essentials of teams that rock -cooperation, friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, discipline, execution, and leadership –with humorous and revealing anecdotes. As one of the most colorful characters from the sports world, Bill Walton delivers an inspiring message for teams looking to take their performance to the next level.