|Charlie Neumann: San Diego Union-Tribune|
The recipient of countless awards and accolades, he's often remembered as the UCLA superstar and boisterous, outspoken redhead and Grateful Dead super-fan who wore tie-died shirts before he evolved into the more mature man of legendary fame as an uncompromising competitor and community icon. Never one to seek recognition for his charitable work, Walton's passionate support of other athletes, local charities, and scores of people whose names you've never heard reveal the true man. For so many reasons, it's pure gratification to see the Bill Walton bronze statue unveiled this weekend in Mission Bay. An exuberant figure stands next to a bicycle with arms outstretched. The image is one of sheer joy, a symbol of Walton's love for San Diego and the golden athlete with the big heart. See the U-T story: Bronzed Bill Walton Is San Diego Gold Standard.
The timing of the statue coincides with the March 22nd publication of Walton's memoir, which you can hear him read (Coach Wooden and UCLA days) in that unique, broadcaster voice at: Back From the Dead by Bill Walton. The book reveals a lifetime of struggles and recoveries, from stuttering as a child and young athlete, to the nonstop injuries and hospitalizations, to 2008, when a collapsed spine left him crawling on the floor for three years. In 2012, Walton publicly regretted that he hadn't been able to help Junior Seau, a friend whose shocking, untimely death was linked to a chronic brain injury caused by football concussions. In an interview about Seau, Walton evokes heartfelt sadness and a palpable memory of his own near suicide: Bill Walton Sad He Couldn't Help Seau.
A rare and revered champion, Bill Walton personifies what it means to never give up and never quit giving. The city of San Diego and thousands more, lucky recipients of his generous heart, give thanks to Bill Walton from the bottom of ours.