Broadcaster, Humanitarian, and Survivor
Basketball legend Bill Walton is one of sports’ most recognizable and beloved figures. His success on the court is well-documented; the nation’s top college basketball star at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden, he then played for two NBA Championship teams– the Portland Trail Blazersand Boston Celtics. But Bill’s nightmarish challenges off the court are less known.
He stuttered so badly he couldn’t say a simple “thank you” until he was 28 years old. And a foot disorder led to 37 surgeries on his feet, legs, and back–keeping him sidelined over half of his NBA career. Armed with grit and a positive outlook, Bill improbably overcame it all. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and named to the “50 Greatest NBA Players of All-Time” list. After his playing career, Bill pursued broadcasting; he is currently covering Pac-12 games on ESPN. Bill Walton has led a life of humility in service of inspiring others. His autobiography,Back from the Dead, was a New York Times bestseller and he is perhaps the best-known Deadhead, having seen over 900 shows.
Bill’s dream was to pursue sports broadcasting. One problem: a severe lifelong stutter that prevented him from even saying a simple “thank you.” Undeterred, Bill set about the task of learning to speak. He conquered stuttering and found a place behind the mic – earning numerous awards and honours since. Bill’s greatest test came in 2007 when severe back pain confined him to the floor of his home for 2½ years. Finally relenting to surgery in 2009, the gruelling rehab and recovery from that 37th surgery could well be Bill’s biggest achievement. While Bill exclaims regularly, “I’m the luckiest guy on Earth,” it’s clear his outlook on life helped create that luck. Bill loves to inspire audiences to rise to the challenge of seeing just how far they can go.
What separates great teams from everyone else? Basketball legend Bill Walton knows and speaks from experience. Throughout his business endeavours, Bill applied the teamwork lessons he learned from sports with astonishing success. In this keynote speech, Bill talks about the essentials of teams that rock – cooperation, friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, discipline, execution, and leadership – with humorous and revealing anecdotes. As one of the most colourful characters from the sports world, Bill Walton delivers an inspiring message for teams looking to take their performance to the next level.
According to Bill, the difference between winning and losing was leadership. The best coaches knew how to get the best out of their players. In Bill’s career, no one was better than legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. An English teacher who coached on the side for extra money, Wooden focused on the fundamentals. He never talked about winning – and rarely even mentioned the opposing team. Wooden did insist that players work together, not be selfish, execute flawlessly, and be accountable for doing their best. In this talk, Bill provides an inside look at how world-class performance is really achieved on the basketball court – leadership and teamwork lessons based on principles that transfer off the court, too.
Bill Walton has the dubious distinction of being the most-injured player in NBA history. After 39 surgeries, the basketball superstar knows a thing or two about injuries, rehabilitation, and recovery. He knows what patients go through – and what caregivers and healthcare professionals go through. He can speak to both audiences authentically. In his 14-year pro career, Bill missed a total of 9½ full seasons due to injury. Even so, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and won numerous awards and honours for his brilliant play. Imagine his impact on the game had he stayed healthy! Bill’s feet, knees, and back – the foundation of his ability to perform as an athlete – let him down. His most serious surgery was to straighten his spine after spending 2½ years on the floor of his home in agonizing pain – literally unable to move and contemplating suicide. Now back in the game of life, Bill remains active on his bike – participating in several week-long charity biking events for groups like Challenged Athletes Foundation. He also speaks to audiences of patients, healthcare professionals, and those from allied fields – delivering an inspiring message about his own healing and recovery.