Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Renaissance Man of Round Ball

Back From the Dead – Bill Walton – (Simon and Schuster)

Named one of the NBA’s Fifty greatest players of all time, large in size and ability to match contrasted against a personality that highlights him a true child of the Sixties, legendary player, commentator and overall renaissance man of round ball, Bill Walton is out with Back From the Dead a very entertaining memoir that delves into his life in an out of basketball.

I was intrigued by Walton writing about his interactions with his legendary college coach John Wooden and equally legendary professional coach Dr. Jack Ramsay. The impact and influence Wooden, who is known almost as much for his post-coaching leadership training as he is for being one of the winningest basketball coaches of all time, had on Walton is striking.

While Walton was a free spirit, Wooden was a straight laced, firm and guiding mentor. Walton writes of his nearly daily phone interactions over the course of decades, through times of tension, conflict and friendship, right up to the coaches passing at the age of 99.

It was amazing to remember that Walton’s entire NBA career amounted to just five and half seasons; cut short by an accumulation of traumatic injuries. He details the clear, physical sacrifice he endured in pursuit of greatness, the cost coming to a head in 2008 with what he describes as a catastrophic spinal collapse. The details of the fight for recovery through immense pain and suffering, pioneering surgery and lengthy rehab will leave you marveling and Walton’s true grit and determination.

This is not a story with interest limited to sports fans or Grateful Deadheads, of which Walton is a card carrying member; this is a story of sacrifice and the willingness to overcome that should inspire anyone. And you got to love a book that receives endorsements from not only NBA legends, but also Dead drummers and political heavyweights.

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