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Partial Bill Walton interview


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What would the guys in the Dead say if they knew you were shaving every day?

Walton: Well, we've made some changes on this tour. We're no longer sleeping in the parking lots and swimming in the fountains. We've been staying in hotels most of the way, though I will say some hotels have declined to take us because we're just having too much fun.

You've described the Grateful Dead as some of your teachers. What have you learned from them?

Walton: "We used to play for silver, now we play for life."

A lot of the Dead's music is improvisation. What is the connection between the music and basketball for you?

Walton: It's all the same. It's the creativity, it's the electricity, it's the speed, it's the teamwork, it's the going back and forth, it's the intrasquad competition to see who can take it the furthest. If a Maurice Lucas or a Lionel Hollins or a Jamaal Wilkes or a Larry Bird made a great play, then my responsibility was to go right back out and match it, to say, it's my turn and I'm coming.

It's the same with The Dead -- everybody's flying in different directions, trying to make it happen, and then there's always that leader, whether it be Jerry Garcia or Maurice Lucas, ready to bring it back and say, "Bam, we're right here, right back on it."

Sounds similar to the way jazz musicians talk about pushing each other ...

Walton: Right, exactly. You live for that. That's what makes it so fun to be on a team. You're sitting at your house, thinking up this wild, crazy stuff as to how it's going to go, and the other guys are sitting at their houses doing the same thing. And when it works, you think, "Are we the luckiest people on Earth, or what? We get to do this?! We get to play ball today?! How great is that?!"

I read somewhere recently that you said you felt that joining the lead NBC announcing team was one of your greatest accomplishments ...

Walton: It was the greatest accomplishment.

How so?

Walton: Well, for someone with my problems and limitations, with the obstacles I've had to overcome ... you know, basketball was easy, but to get to the No. 1 team in broadcasting ... I mean, I'm 6-foot-11, I've got red hair, freckles, I'm a goofy, nerdy-looking guy, I've got a speech impediment -- I stutter and stammer all the time -- and I'm a "Deadhead." When I started in this business 12 years ago, I couldn't get a job. They'd look at me and say, "No way, Walton. Don't call us back and don't come around here any more."

How can the Nets beat the Lakers? What plan do they need to develop?

Walton: They need to listen to The Dead's "I Need a Miracle." That's the secret ingredient.

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