On Thursday morning, former NBA all-star Bill Walton came to campus to talk about overcoming obstacles and adversity in order to achieve success as a part of the executive suite series.
Walton had an illustrious basketball career, which featured two NCAA championships at UCLA with legendary coach John Wooden, two NBA championships with the Portland Trail Blazers and a Most Valuable Player award at the age of 24.
Despite all of the accolades Walton compiled over his collegiate and thirteen season professional career, he could have accomplished even more if not for debilitating foot, back and knee injuries.
Walton has had 37 orthopedic surgeries in his life, the first surgery coming at 14 years of age when, as Walton put it, a bunch of thugs in a gym tore up his knee.
“They didn’t like the fact that a 14-year-old, red-haired awkward looking kid was beating them,” Walton said. “So, they hit me with a high-low and took out my knee.”
The next major injury for Walton took place at UCLA, when a player came across the court and took out his legs as Walton was going up for a layup. Walton landed hard on his back and broke two bones in his spine. The injury, according to Walton, had a profound impact on him not only as a player, but as a person as well.
“I was never the same player after that” Walton said. “I never realized the totality of it all until I hurt my spine.”
These two injuries severely hampered Walton, but none more than the stress fracture in his foot suffered while playing for Portland. Walton had suffered from problems with his feet since birth, but the stress fracture just made everything worse.
“My foot was split in half,” Walton said. “They didn’t know what to do with me.”
Physical issues did not serve as the only obstacle that Walton had to overcome in his life. Walton had a stuttering problem all the way until he met Marty Glickman, a man who eventually helped him overcome this impediment.
“I couldn’t talk until I was 28,” Walton said.
Throughout the course of his career, Walton had the pleasure of playing for some of the greatest coaches the sport has ever seen. In college, he played for the illustrious John Wooden, who instilled values into Walton that he carried throughout the rest of his life. In the NBA, Walton had the pleasure of playing for Jack Ramsay in Portland and the legendary Red Auerbach with the Boston Celtics.
All of these men had a lasting impact on Walton and his ability to overcome adversity. These men stood out to Walton, especially when he got to see the other side of things when playing for the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I spent six years in Los Angeles with Donald Sterling” Walton said with a laugh. “Trust me, I know the difference.”
After his speech, Walton was presented with a custom Seton Hall basketball jersey. Walton stood as an example that all students have the ability to overcome adversity with hard work and determination.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.