Thank You Bill Walton

Thank You Bill Walton

A few words about the recent passing of HOF Basketball Member and World Champion Bill Walton.

I had the good fortune of getting to know Bill a bit during a couple of work engagements. His deep voice and never ending enthusiasm for life and people was something to see and hear.

I first met Bill at the NBA AllStar Game in Los Angeles many years ago. My client was spending a lot of money on sports sponsorship and we were invited to sit with a group of A list NBA personalities. Bill showed genuine interest in every person and was willing to talk about anything you wanted to talk about. I mostly recall that his handler was trying to pull him away to get to some other obligation and he told her “I’m talking to these people right now. I will let you know when I’m ready” more on that later.

In no small part because of his genuine interest in people I later secured him as a paid speaker for a conference held in Boston by one of my clients. Of course he was part of a championship with the Celtics and was revered there. He was a big hit at the conference and I asked him if he would like to join us at a conference party later that evening. Now the first thing to know about speaker deals is that you don’t ask for extras and that they may take offense. I did offer a generous contribution to the charity of his choice if he would attend (such was the enthusiasm for more time with Bill. The event was held at the well known spot across the street from Fenway “Jillians”. A huge spot with several floors. There was no agenda, Bill just went around and talked with everybody and anybody.

I had asked for two hours of his time and he was still going strong at three hours. As his guide for the evening, it was my job to get him there and back to the hotel etc. He had gone way past time and I was ready to go myself. I was moving him toward the private exit and he was still stopping to take a photo with every bus boy, server, who wanted a selfie or an autograph. I found myself starting to “encourage” him to go. He looked at me and said “not yet Larry, I’m talking to these folks”. Deja Vu. The same thing he said years ago at the AllStar game, when he was visiting with my group. To Bill it didn’t matter if you were a sponsorship prospect or a bus boy. He treated everyone with respect and was very generous with his time.

A couple of other small anecdotes that don’t need explanation. In the SUV limo he liked to ride shotgun and he told the driver to please take off his tie. The other thing I know for certain is that he was always dealing with pain. I once saw him boarding a plane (yes commercial) and he was struggling and relying on the handrail to make it down the jetway. He was perhaps the most injured player in the NBA over his long career. Getting around hurt, but you would never know it if he knew you were watching. Lastly, we talked about some books that were important to him (not about sports) and he texted me links.

Oddly enough, when I was in High School my team met his team in the CIF playoffs. I asked him if he remembered and he reveled in the fact that the tallest guy on our team was 6’5”. Of course he was nearly 7 feet tall in High School. They crushed us. It put a big smile on his face. I smile when I think of him.

Thank you Bill.