I’m a big fan of Bill Walton, for a few reasons. First, he was a great basketball player who’s never been bitter about the health problems that kept him from dominating the league. Second, he got the Celtics a title. Third, he’s a free spirit and he says what he thinks.
He wrote a piece about Michael Jordan yesterday, focusing on the sixth man role. It’s exceptional. Walton’s erratic as a commentator, because he gets impatient and his passion can lead him to overcriticize. But this is exceptional, because it’s Walton telling Jordan how he felt in 1985 when he accepted the sixth man role with the Celtics. He never says it, but he’s not talking about Michael Jordan. He’s a proud man talking about what it took to go from Portland’s savoir to Boston’s sixth man. (We’ll skip the unfortunate steps inbetween.)
“As the sixth man, you’re at the mercy of the coach, who might forget about you, and subject to the chances that someone else lets go by. You are plagued by uncertainty and often have to turn a garbled jumble into Mozart. And just when you’ve got it right, you’re back on that bench again — watching, waiting, hoping, dreaming for the coach’s call so that you can have a chance to determine your own fate.”
Bless you, Bill. Celtics fans still remember you, you know, and we still appreciate what you did. Don’t forget that.