Bill Plaschke: Bill Walton's kindness and wonderful wackiness made us the grateful ones

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

Fittingly, my favorite Bill Walton encounter involved only his voice.

It was in October 2000, the day before John Wooden's 90th birthday. I was visiting with Coach in his modest Encino condo when the phone rang and the answering machine picked up.

Suddenly the room was filled with a familiar deep and gravelly singing from across the globe.

"Happy birthday to you ... happy birthday to you ... happy birthday from Australia..."

Wooden smiled.

"Oh, that's Bill Walton," he said.


The song ended, but Walton was just getting started. Still on the answering machine, just a voice coming from a box, he began describing the weather and his vacation and all sorts of ordinary things when it finally became apparent, he wasn't just making small talk.

Walton was determined to stay on the line for as long as it took for Wooden to make the slow walk from his family room down the hall to pick up the phone.

Twice a week, he would call, and twice a week, he would patiently kill time until his aging coach could answer.

A simple act of thoughtfulness, breathtaking in its beauty.


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