These days, Bill Walton is known more for what he says as a National Basketball Association commentator for ABC than for what he did as a player on the court, where he won three straight college player of the year awards for UCLA in the early 1970s. During his 13-year-pro-career, Walton did enough to be named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, be elected into the NBA’s Hall of Fame, and win two championships, and be named league MVP once.
At 6’11", he might also be the tallest Deadhead around.
Walton will give a clinic at the Meadowlands on March ‘1 and speak about his experiences and why people should get involved in charity projects for UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, so we figured we’d ask him a few questions.
JS: What role does charity have in today’s society?
BW: One of my master teachers is [former UCLA basketball coach] John Wooden, and he always taught us a great lesson of life that he learned from Mother Teresa that a life not lived for others is not a life, and that is why I am coming to New Jersey. What the UJA does throughout the world is one of my favorite projects, in its spirit and enthusiasm, and in its fight for social justice. I could not be prouder that my job is to help them raise money.
JS: What role does faith have in today’s society?
BW: I think it is incredibly important because faith and spirituality are hope. They give us meaning and context and the ability to commit to our goals and ideals, but also to share a common bond with people who are trying to make this world a better place.
JS: Do you have faith?
BW: I’m a very spiritual person, it’s personal faith. It’s a personal faith, which I will get into at the event.
JS: What’s the last act of kindness you saw?
BW: I see it every day. On the plane last night, someone gave up their aisle seat so that these wretched legs of mine could sprawl out into the aisle, and that kind soul sitting in front of me did not recline the seat onto my chest.
JS: Should kids and adults look to athletes as role models?
BW: We are all role models. One of the reasons I am excited about March ‘1 is the youth program at 5:30 and adult program later that will include a basketball clinic and signing autographs. It’s never too early or late to start learning life’s greatest lessons.
But why would we limit [who is a role model] to the NBA? The NBA is a microcosm of our society at large. Happiness begins when selfishness ends.
JS: What role does basketball have in society?
BW: Basketball is a tool. It is an outlet. Sports are generally about health, about fun, and about learning life’s great lessons, such as the value of being on a team and working with others, and dealing with success and disappointment.
Pro basketball takes it to another level, insofar as the basketball aspects and the opportunity to make a difference in others’ lives, to inspire, to build, and to dream. I could not be prouder to be a member of the NBA family.
JB: What do you think of the hip-hop world?
BW: I like music that promotes thoughts and dreams of positive hope, of peace, of love, of charity, and generosity, of equality, of an egalitarian meritocracy, and of a world where people have a chance. I’m not into negativity, violence, not into waste, not into vulgarity, not into oppression, not into sexism.
I like rock ‘n’ roll. And I like melody too.
JS: What’s the role of music?
BW: Music is the window to our souls. Music, art, spirituality, athletics, that is what we live for. It’s what makes us unique as a species. And its what all of us share.
JS: Should the Nets move to Brooklyn?
BW: That’s not for me to say.
JS: Music or basketball?
BW: That’s like asking me which of my children I like best or which of my championships I like best. Concerts, camps, children, movies they are all great and are not meant to be ranked. They are meant to be treasured and enjoyed, and you can learn from them all.
But I would love to be able to play ball all day and dance all night.
BW: Everybody should bring their basketball shoes to the Meadowlands on March ‘1. The game of life is about to get under way. Be sure to bring all of your memorabilia for signing and cameras for taking pictures. We’re going to be having a raucous good time ’til the sun comes up.
For more information about the event, visit www.ujannj.org