Monday November 5th is the 60th birthday of an American icon who left a lasting (if brief) impression on West Hartford during his years at ESPN. Here is a brief list of his achievements:
1) Two time NCAA Basketball Champion at UCLA
2) Basketball Hall of Famer and member of the 1986 Boston Celtics championship team
3) Member of the Grateful Dead Hall of Fame (the only non band member inducted)
4) Social activist, Academic All American, Emmy Award winning analyst
5) Great Family Man and Friend
In case you haven't figured it out already, Bill Walton is 60.
As many in the West Hartford community learned between the years of 2007-2009, this larger than life figure embraced his time here and truly loves our town.
For those of a certain age, the memories of Bill on the court are timeless. He played the game at a level rarely seen, but his career was cut short by injuries that caused him to have surgery more than 30 times. But he always remained engaged. Not only is he a very perceptive basketball analyst, but is also a keen observer of society as a whole with many opinions on issues affecting our society.
One of my most vivid memories of Bill's West Hartford days came one day when we were walking down LaSalle Rd after lunch at Bricco. It was probably in 2005 or 2006. From a distance we heard someone yell "Bill, Bill." And I saw a very tall guy about 200 yards away and I said "I think that's (former NBA star) Manute Bol."
Sure enough, Manute spotted Bill and we went over to talk. Bill asked Manute how he recognized him and Manute said it was because of how Bill walked. A conversation ensued where I felt like a kid because these guys were so tall.
Sadly, Manute has since died, but he was someone very much in the spirit of Bill Walton for the way he sacrificed much of his own money trying to help the people of his native Sudan, who were (and are) victims of violence and war.
So congratulations to West Hartford's adopted son on turning 60. Along with his wonderful wife Lori, it doesn't matter what the calendar says, Bill will be forever young.