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Bill Walton: “Larry Bird, John Wooden and Jerry Garcia are all the same person”

March 10, 2017


Part two of Bill Walton's appearance on Pardon My Take with Big Cat and PFT Commenter was even more entertaining than part one as the conversation moved squarely into Walton's love of the Grateful Dead (and, as it turns out, Big Cat's) and his thoughts on life in general. 

Among the highlights, Walton finally revealed his favorite year of the Dead ("This one") and recounted those times when old UCLA coach John Wooden walked into the locker room after a Dead show at Pawley Pavilion inquiring about the unique smell. The hosts of the pod also suggested Walton associate NBA teams with Dead songs, and although Walton admitted he doesn't think well on his feet like that, did manage to associate "Truckin'" with the San Antonio Spurs and the Lakers with (sort of) "Uncle John's Band." 

Maybe the most interesting story of the podcast is a run-in Walton had with Dick Latvala, which ultimately led to Latvala's being hired by the Dead as he went on to curate the Dick's Picks series. To set the scene, this was in the 1980s in Colorado when the Dead's show was moved from Red Rocks to McNichols Arena. As he recalls, he ran up on a guy wearing a shirt that looked like "an airbrushed history of the world through the eyes of the Grateful Dead." When Walton complemented this gentleman's shirt, he promptly ripped it off Tarzan-style and gifted it to the seven-footer. 

As Walton was leaving with the band through the bowels of the arena, he noticed that man (still shirtless) waiting outside and pulled him into the van to come hang out with Walton's crew and presumably the Grateful Dead. Long story short, when Walton told the tale of the shirt, the band hired this man on the spot. That man was Dick Latvala. 

Moving on, Big Cat asked Walton's thoughts on Donna Jean Godchaux, noting that he wasn't particularly a fan. "I love Donna," Walton said. "Please. No time to hate, barely time to wait. Donna is an angel of mercy, Brent Mydland is fantastic, I wish they would play his songs again." Walton doubled down on his Donna support: "I'm standing up for Donna, and as soon as they turn this camera off, I'm going to punch you in the face." 

The conversation ebbed and flowed until Walton was asked about Larry Bird, turning into a comparison between one Larry Bird, John Wooden and Jerry Garcia. "They're all the same person in the sense of humanity, selflessness, leadership, assuming responsibility to be the guy and to be able to deliver every single night," Walton said. "Pressure is like ego, ego is a good thing as long as it's kept in check."

All in all, another fascinating Bill Walton interview. What else is new? 

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