Walton adds colorful commentary to NBA games

Zac Reicks

I noticed something cluttering my ESPN highlights last night as I drifted off to sleep.

It wasn’t the already annoying NHL scores and clips, or the constant blather from Ron Jaworski about “maintaining gap discipline.” Instead, there were NBA highlights galore. At least 40 minutes of the one-hour SportsCenter show was devoted to a full slate of Wednesday night games.

It was right then and there that I decided if I had to hear any more about how much potential 7-foot-5 Houston Rockets center Yao Ming had, I would cancel my cable subscription and only watch Reading Rainbow reruns on IPTV. And if you don’t think LeVar Burton could take Ming to the hole, well, you just don’t know basketball.

However, there is one bright light that will shine through this NBA fog of crappy ball handling, poor shooting, worthless Chinese imports and an emphasis on having more tattoos than rebounds.

Ladies and gentlemen … presenting your beacon of hope for the 2002-03 NBA season, broadcaster extraordinaire, drumroll please … Bill Walton. (This is the part where I clap robustly while everyone else boos and throws tomatoes as red as Walton’s old beard.)

Walton, an NBA Hall of Famer and NBA national television analyst since 1990, will team with Brad Nessler as the lead duo for ABC Sports’ coverage and ESPN’s Wednesday game telecasts of the NBA starting this fall.

Personally, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Wednesday evening than listening to Walton espouse the greatness of Shaq and how ’70s greats World B. Free, George Gervin and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar transcended the game.

You can just hear Walton screaming at Laker guards to “get the ball to Shaq” and “I don’t understand — why don’t you just pass the ball to Shaq.”

Even better, you could catch Walton get on a roll talking about how the effervescence of the ’70s combined with love, free will, long hair and the freedom to smoke pot and get naked get categorized as a “wonderful time for the world.”

It seems like only yesterday when I would catch an ad for upcoming NBC games featuring “classic” matchups like a Bulls-Knicks and Rockets-Jazz doubleheader on Sunday (you can substitute Bulls-Magic, Heat-Knicks, Lakers-Sonics and Suns-Rockets for the above overplayed matchups).

The best part of those games was not the high level of play, but the chance to hear Walton argue about how you don’t need to cover players like Luc Longley, Charles Smith and Scott Williams because they are absolutely worthless.

Walton also has a tendency to tell big men how they should occupy the post and one of his best lines came from a game where the Pacers’ Rik Smits dunked over a much smaller Larry Johnson. After the play, the camera showed a beaming Walton telling “The Dunkin’ Dutchman” to “throw it down, big man, throw it down.” My roommate Ben and I have dubbed that phrase as the best trash talking line in video game history (other than anything about super tight end Ron Hall).

Many of us were too young to fully appreciate how good of a basketball player Walton really was. He was a three-time recipient of the NCAA Player of the Year Award in 1972, ’73 and ’74. He was also a member of two NCAA championship teams that compiled an NCAA-record 88 consecutive wins over a three year span.

Drafted number one overall in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers, Walton won his first championship with Portland in 1977. It would be almost another 10 years before he won his second with the Boston Celtics in 1986. His vast experience with the NBA and basketball in general is just one of the main reasons he is great.

Steve Anderson, ESPN executive vice president, production and technical operations said Nessler’s enthusiasm and big-game experience will mesh perfectly with Bill, whose Hall of Fame credentials are spiced with a lively and opinionated style.

Howard Katz, president of ABC Sports, said Bill is one of basketball’s most respected, articulate and informed commentators. His inside knowledge of the NBA, combined with his unique personality, will both inform and entertain viewers.

Walton is also an avid Grateful Dead fan and has been to over 600 shows. He was recently inducted as an inaugural member of the Grateful Dead Hall of Honor, which he described as “great an honor as I have ever received.”

While many of you think that Walton’s ability level is the same as the acting ability of Vin Diesel and Nicolas Cage put together (“XXX” and “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” — I rest my case), don’t flip the channel in disgust when you see his goofy smile.

Ten minutes of Walton will provide you with hours of laughs. Trust me on that one.

Zac Reicks

is a senior in journalism and mass communication from Lawler. He is assignment sports editor for the Daily.