If there’s a more fun-loving former great player in basketball than Bill Walton, it’s hard to imagine who that would be. Ever since retiring from the NBA in 1987, the big redhead has flashed his toothy smile seemingly at every turn, including while working as a stream-of-consciousness TV analyst who is as entertaining as he is insightful.
Life, however, has not always been a lighthearted romp, which is why the title of this autobiography carries double meaning. On one hand, it references Walton’s long zealous fandom of the Grateful Dead rock group. But it also hints at a post-basketball physical ordeal that tested him to the full. Walton knows a thing or two about overcoming physical adversity, ending his injury-riddled pro career as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year and carving out a successful broadcasting career despite difficulties with stuttering.
One of the most compelling aspects of his life story is Walton’s loyalty to John Wooden, his coach at UCLA . The two did not always see eye-to-eye, but developed a lifetime friendship that saw Walton speak to Wooden nearly every day for 43 years until Wooden’s passing in 2010.
Here’s an excerpt from Back from the Dead:
“In the four years that we played for Coach [John] Wooden [at UCLA], his pregame preparation never varied. We never watched film, he never used the blackboard, we never ran a play – didn’t have any. And in the games, we never called time-out. Only rarely, and mistakenly, did he mention the other team by name. It was all about us, all the time, and what we were going to do, in our memorized exhibition of brilliance.
“So calm, so poised, so controlled, but always with the rolled-up program in his hand, he would look out at us and say, ‘Men, I’ve done my job. The rest is up to you. When that game starts out there, please, don’t ever look over at me on the sideline. There is nothing more that I can do to help you from this point forward. Now let’s get it going, up and down.’ And then it was time”