Rathbone: It was a ‘super fun’ game for Bill Walton


Brian Rathbone, Sports Editor

Bill Walton loves his life. The Basketball Hall of Famer, NBA World Champion and charismatic broadcaster found his way back to the Pacific Northwest to call Saturday’s clash between Oregon State and Cal in a pivotal conference game early in the Pac-12 season.

Unlike most broadcasters, Walton had a mob of fans spanning from young kids to grown adults, wanting autographs, photos and to reminisce about his playing days.

 Walton brings a wealth of basketball knowledge  that  few in the business can match. If there was a Mount Rushmore of college basketball players, Walton’s head would absolutely be carved into the side of the mountain. 

The lengthy list of basketball accomplishments include being named Naismith College Player of the Year three times, two NCAA championships, an 88-game winning streak while at UCLA, two-time NBA champion (including bringing home the Portland Trail Blazers only championship in 1977),  NBA league MVP, NBA Final’s MVP and Sixth Man of the Year (The only player in NBA history with all three of those honors, despite having an injury-plagued NBA career. 

Now he finds himself calling the game he loves in the Pac-12 conference where his legacy started, or as he routinely calls it, “The Conference of Champions.” His exuberant and philosophical style  of calling games — saying that Gary Payton II “has an intergalactic presence” during Saturday’s game — is entertaining among college campuses in the conference. 

Walton takes pride in being a champion and what it takes to become a champion saying “there’s nothing like being a champion.” When it comes to comparing championship teams he will tell you to not compare championship teams — he has the same rule for comparing concerts, children and congraduations.  

Brian Rathbone: What were your thoughts on tonight’s game?

Bill Walton:It was super fun, it was everything that I had hoped for — I was hoping that Cal would play a little better because I’m a huge Cal fan. But this Oregon State team I really like them, they have a lot of players, a lot of different looks, they have a great blend of veteran leadership and young fresh coming in and the crowd today was awesome. This is the portent of the future, young people around the land will watch this game, will come to this game, and this team will change their lives, and they will be inspired to new levels of greatness in their own lives, but also for generations who will come down to play for Wayne Tinkle at Oregon State. 

BR: You played for some legendary coaches in your career, John Wooden (UCLA and Dr. Jack Ramsay (Portland) What has impressed you about Wayne Tinkle?

BW: His commitment, his enthusiasm, his passion. You take every single value, you take every single human attribute that is embodied in John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success that is on the wall in player’s lounge in the Oregon State basketball facility — and Wayne Tinkle epitomises that. 

There are a lot of great coaches in this conference, a lot of great young coaches which is fantastic for us because The Conference of Champions is appropriately named. Wayne Tinkle is a champion, but you have Andy Enfield (USC), Sean Miller (Arizona) who is the gold standard, platinum standard, thorian standard right now. The Bruins are back, USC is coming on, but this Wayne Tinkle, he’s got it all. What he represents in terms of teaching, guidance, mentoring, leadership and all the different things of making a program, making a life, he is a dad, he’s a husband and is just absolutely spectacular. In the short time that I’ve known Wayne Tinkle — It isn’t about him, it’s about the team, it’s about the community, it’s about the people in the Heart of the Valley. They have a lot of great fans here, now they have a team to cheer for. 

BR: You won a lot of games in college BW: Not Enough! (laughs) BR: One of the games that you did lose was here at Gill Coliseum, what do you remember about that game?  

BW: Ralph Miller is a hall of famer, some of those players that played for Oregon State came up to me after the game, and I can’t believe we lost that game (shaking his head with a laugh).

BR: Did you have a relationship with (former OSU and NBA star) Gary Payton?

BW:I broadcasted Gary’s career and I’m a huge Gary Payton fan and I can never thank him enough. Gary and Luke (Walton’s son who played for the Lakers and is currently on the coaching staff for the Golden State Warrions) joined the Lakers at the same time and Gary, Shaq, Kobe, Karl and Phil all treated him really, really well. 

BR: What did you think of his son, Gary Payton II, tonight?

BW: Oh gosh what a player. I love GPII, he plays to win, there’s no nonsense, there’s no self-promotion, there’s no ego out of control, he plays to win the game and he does everything. He’s so fun to watch — the team is fun watch. And this crowd, the band and the cheerleaders and Gill Coliseum it’s fantastic. I’m ecstatic for this region, I’m ecstatic for this state and I’m ecstatic for the this conference, because so many of the teams are on the rise and Oregon State is on the rise.

On Twitter @brathbone3

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