Bill Walton's Magic Day on the Court

Bill Walton's Magic Day on the Court  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Grey Flannel Auctions.

The red-headed center plays basketball like he’s on fire.  From the start of the second half of the game Bill Walton had three personal fouls against him.  A fourth was on its way in the next ten minutes.  The count didn’t slow Walton one bit.

It was March 26, 1973.  Walton was playing for U.C.L.A, in their seventh straight bid for the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

At 49, I can say something I never would have said when I was a player, that I`m a better person because of my failures and disgraces.
— Bill Walton

Walton scored 44 points in the game, hit 21 of 22 field goals and landed 13 rebounds as U.C.L.A. toppled Memphis State 87-66.  In the last two minutes and 51 seconds of the game Walton hit the floor hard hurting his knee and ankle.  He got up and limped off the court as 19,301 spectators cheered.  Walton put in one of the greatest performances in college basketball history and the fans were right there with him.      

“We couldn’t contain Walton.  I’ve never seen a player so dominating,” said Memphis coach, Gene Bartow.

The U.C.L.A Bruins with Walton’s help captured their 9th N.C.A.A. title in 10 years and 75th straight win.  Basketball for U.C.L.A had become a science. 

After winning three straight College Player of the Year Awards, the 6-foot 11-inch Walton was destined to become an NBA superstar.  

The offense revolved around “Big Red”.  He could pass, rebound, block shots, and score in a clinch like few others.  What set him back were injuries, dozens of them. 

“Walton was blessed with a gift and cursed with a body that couldn’t handle that gift,” said ESPN sports writer Bill Simmons.  “The curse trumped the gift.”

Despite being dogged with injuries Walton was the No. 1 overall pick of the Portland Trailblazers in the 1974 NBA Draft.  His only stipulation was that no one could make him cut his long red locks or talk to the press. 

He went on to win the NBA Most Valuable Player award for the Blazers in 1977-78.  His focus, commitment, hustle and ability to inspire people around him offset his time off the court with injuries. 

Walton was traded to the San Diego Clippers in 1979.  He went on to play with the Boston Celtics, winning a championship and the NBA Sixth Man Award in 1986. 

During his 13 years in the NBA, Walton played in only 44 percent of regular-season games and left basketball with a modest 13.3 scoring average.

Called the most versatile center of his time, Walton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on May 10, 1993 and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame that same year.

“At 49, I can say something I never would have said when I was a player, that I`m a better person because of my failures and disgraces,” he said about his career.

Walton was voted one of the NBA’s 50 All-Time Greatest Players in 1996.

On Aug. 13, Grey Flannel Auctions featured their 5th Annual Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Auction live from the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Offered in the sale was a circa 1976 Bill Walton Trailblazers, game-used, and autographed home jersey.  It sold for $72,000.  This style of uniform was worn for only two seasons 1976-1977.


Elgin Baylor; Los Angeles Lakers; game-used road uniform; late-1960s;  $48,000.

Magic Johnson; Rookie LA Lakers; game-used home jersey; 1979-1980;  $48,000.

Dolph Schayes; Syracuse Nats; game-used and autographed home jersey; only known Schayes Nats jersey; mid-1950s;  $78,000.

Sam Jones; Boston Celtics; game-used home Finals jersey; worn during game four of the 1969 NBA Finals; 1968-1969;  $84,000.    

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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