Bill was born in La Mesa, California and played high school basketball at Helix High School. At age 17, Walton played for the United States men’s national basketball team at the1970 FIBA World Championship. He played college basketball for John Wooden at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1971 to 1974, winning the national title in 1972 over Florida State and again in 1973 with an 87–66 win over Memphis State in which Walton made an impressive 21 of 22 field goal attempts and scored 44 points, representing more than half his team’s total points.
The Walton-led 1971–72 UCLA basketball team had a record of 30–0, in the process winning its games by an average margin of more than 30 points. He was the backbone of two consecutive 30–0 seasons and was also part of UCLA’s NCAA men’s basketball record 88-game winning streak. The UCLA streak contributed to a personal winning streak that lasted almost five years, in which Walton’s high school, UCLA freshman (freshmen were ineligible for the varsity at that time), and UCLA varsity teams did not lose a game from the middle of his junior year of high school to the middle of his senior year in college.
Walton was the 1973 recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. Walton also received the USBWA College Player of the Year and Naismith College Player of the Year as the top college basketball player in the country three years in a row while attending UCLA, at the same time earning Academic All-American honors three times. Some college basketball historians rate Walton as the greatest who ever played the game at the college level. In Walton’s senior year during the 1973–74 season, the school’s 88-game winning streak ended with a 71–70 loss to the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish. During the same season, UCLA’s record seven consecutive national titles was broken when North Carolina State defeated the Bruins 80–77 in double overtime in the NCAA semi-finals. With Walton’s graduation in 1974 and legendary Bruin coach John Wooden’s retirement after UCLA’s 1975 national title, the unprecedented UCLA dynasty came to an end.
Back from the Dead
This inspiring memoir from sports and cultural icon Bill Walton recounts his devastating injuries and amazing recoveries, set in the context of his UCLA triumphs under John Wooden, his storied NBA career, and his affinity for music and the Grateful Dead.
In February 2008, Bill Walton suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse—the culmination of a lifetime of injuries—that left him unable to move. He spent three years on the floor of his house, eating his meals there and crawling to the bathroom, where he could barely hoist himself up onto the toilet. The excruciating pain and slow recovery tested Walton to the fullest. But with extraordinary patience, fortitude, determination, and sacrifice—and pioneering surgery—he recovered, and now shares his life story in this remarkable and unique memoir.
Walton grew up in San Diego in the 1950s and 1960s and was deeply influenced by the political and cultural upheavals of that period. Although he strongly identified with the cool people, particularly in music and politics, his greatest role model outside his family was super-straight UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, a thoughtful, rigorous mentor who seemed immune to the turmoil of the times. Although there was always tension and conflict between them, the two men would speak nearly every day for forty-three years, until Wooden’s death at age ninety-nine.
Despite a lifelong stuttering affliction, Walton chose a career in broadcasting after his playing days ended. He eventually won an Emmy Award and other accolades for broadcasting and was recognized as a leading media pundit.
John Wooden once said that no greatness ever came without sacrifice. Nothing better illustrates this saying than the real story of Walton’s life. In his own words, Back from the Dead shares this dramatic story, including his basketball and broadcasting careers, his many setbacks and rebounds, and his ultimate triumph as the toughest of champions.
“Bill Walton won at every level with extraordinary skill and intelligence. Yet more importantly, he continues to win in the game of life.”
– Bill Russell, Bill Walton’s favorite player ever
“A remarkable journey of resilience, reinvention and ultimate triumph told in the unique voice of one of the great pundits—and players—of our generation.” (David J. Stern, NBA Commissioner Emeritus)
“This isn’t a basketball story, it’s a story of victory over adversity and the Tao of positive thinking. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Bill Walton is a winner.” (Mickey Hart, Drummer/Percussionist, Grateful Dead)
“Bill Walton played the game of life with the same verve as he did the game of basketball, even in the face of crippling injuries and withering pain. Funny, poignant and inspiring, Back from the Dead is a rollicking, riveting memoir, told with characteristic honesty by one of America’s most compelling personalities.” (David Axelrod, Author of BELIEVER: My Forty Years in Politics)
“Larger than life, with a heart and soul to match his reach and accomplishments, Bill Walton has written a compelling autobiography, Back from the Dead. This is Walton at his best, a great friend who helps you overcome even the most brutal setback.” (Roger McNamee, tech investor, musician, Deadhead)
“Walton adroitly weaves his personal and professional lives in this frequently stirring memoir. . . . [His] love for life and the people and things in it—including his college coach, John Wooden—is infectious. You can’t stop reading, or rooting for the man.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Fervent, witty. . . . One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.” (Kirkus Reviews)
|No. 32, 5|
|Born||(1952-11-05) November 5, 1952 La Mesa, California|
|Listed height||6 ft 11 in (211 cm)|
|Listed weight||210 lb (95 kg)|
|High school||Helix (La Mesa, California)|
|NBA draft||1974 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall|
|Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers|
|Pro playing career||1974–1987|
|1974–1978||Portland Trail Blazers|
|1979–1985||San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||6,215 (13.3 ppg)|
|Blocks||1,034 (2.2 bpg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|