I may not agree with all of Bill Walton's politics, but I believe in 100% on his outlook on life. Getting to spend a half hour with him - along with a half dozen other bloggers the day before St. Pat's Day at the onset of the NCAA tournament - was nothing less than a blessing. His genuine, caring nature resonated resoundingly. As was his genuine love for Guinness - the ale he was pitching.
"With St. Patrick’s Day and a day of must-see basketball both taking place on March 17th this year, I can’t think of a better time to take a day off from work," said Walton. "It’s a day to step back, enjoy the important things in life with a perfectly poured pint of GUINNESS and take bold action. If you’re the type who plays it safe and is all about picking No. 1 seeds to go all the way in your bracket, this is not for you. But if you like making bold choices, perhaps we’ll raise a pint together at a sports bar on St. Patrick’s Day!"
However, as the day went on, his message became simpler, more authority-defying: "Go bold, quit your job, and chase your dreams."
While we were all willing to go along for the long, strange trip with him, I think John from Red's Army put it best, "It's kinda what I'm doing now. I shoulda asked Bill how to get PAID to do it.... I mean other than 'be a Hall of Fame baller.'"
Here's some highlights from the chat. I could transcribe everything, but I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't let you hear Billy wax poetic in his own melodic tones.
Talking to Bill Walton about his favorite college player, Jimmer Fredette, invokes comparisons to (among others) Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, Danny Ainge and JJ Barea.
When asked if the First Four diluted the NCAA Tournament, Bill Walton supported the notion that more basketball means more opportunity for all. In the next breath, he criticized the NBA Players Association's misplaced priorities in not looking out for their own, but rather high schoolers who aren't even members of the union.
SLAM's Adam Figman, did a great job transcribing:
“More basketball! It means more money. More money, means more opportunities for other students, other sports, and the NCAA—I’m a big believer. I don’t think you should pay players; I think that’s a mistake. The value of a college scholarship—anybody in this room go to college? [Hands raise] Anybody in this room think this was a valuable experience and it helped you with your life? [Hands raise] Yes, so that’s the value that you get. It’s not about paying them money. Give value, but make the value be realistic. And have exceptions. Have exceptions for extreme cases. And make it worthwhile for the players to stay. The Player’s Association [and] the current players are making a huge mistake arguing for high school players to come into the League. The Union represents current players, and those jobs at the end of the line. That’s what the Union should be fighting for, as opposed to the guys who aren’t even in the Union. I’m for a rule that would have three years out of high school, or 21 years of age. Three years, or minimum 21 years of age. The NBA, that’s a man’s League. It’s adults. College is different; two totally different sports. And fantastic, unique and great in their respective ways.”
Walton on what he's learned from Coach Wooden, his parents, and his own fatherly advice:
If there are two individuals who shaped Walton's love of the game, it was Chick Hearn, the legendary Los Angeles play-by-play announcer, and one of the Laker foes Hearn called over the air, the Boston's Bill Russell.
Finally, hitting on who are real contenders this year, Walton sees the Celtics and Lakers, with whomever getting home-advantage coming out with the crown. He notes that with Chicago and Miami gunning for them, the Celtics will have a more difficult time than the Lakers who only need to fend off Dallas and San Antonio.