Bill Walton on Gilbert and Bob Dylan
[This is really a natural continuation of the entry below, but it was getting a bit long. When we left the tale, Jackson and Eddie Jordan were shooting hoop on the Verizon Center court, and Bill Walton and I were sitting courtside and discussing the Wizards and their uncertain future.]
Earlier today, Wizards PR ace Daren Jenkins was wandering around the arena with a Bill Walton high school replica jersey thrown over his shoulder. It was for Gilbert's collection, naturally. Daren got Walton to sign it; Walton signed it on both sides: "Bill Walton, Hall of Fame 93" was the part that I saw. So, thinking there might be some synergy here, I asked the big fella whether he reads Gilbert's blog, and he said that yes, he does.
"I find Gilbert Arenas to be one of the most refreshing and enlightening players in the entire NBA," Walton said. "But now his season's over, so you have to move on. That's what makes this so special. They're not going to cancel this game. They're not going to alter the schedule. You cannot sit around and feel sorry for yourself, you cannot sit around thinking about what could have been, should have been. What makes basketball the perfect game is that it is a microcosm of life. Basketball is transition, basketball is can you get to the ball first. And you do that not with feet, not with your natural talent. You do that with your mind."
This was getting trippy. I asked Walton why he doesn't have his own blog; he said he doesn't have the time. I asked about the perception that Gilbert's antics had gone too far, that perhaps he had crossed some line.
"What was the Bob Dylan line?" asked the man wearing the Bob Dylan sweatshirt. "'Maggie's Farm.' The song starts with:
I wake up in the morning
Fold my hands and pray for rain.
Got a head full of ideas
That are drivin' me insane.
"Then he goes on to say, later:
I try my best
To be just like I am.
But everybody wants me
To be just like them.
"Five years from now, 10 years from now, all this stuff that Gilbert's doing," Walton continued, "They're going to say, 'You know what, this guy was ahead of his time'."
Walton went on to talk about the opportunity now in front of a guy like DeShawn Stevenson, a guy who's still young, still has something to prove, a guy who has never been called upon to do what he is now being asked to do.
"What more could you ask for in life than a chance?" Walton asked, rhetorically. "We're gonna see it tonight. We're gonna find out tonight what these guys are made of....Ultimately the greatest of the greats have a special level of self-motivation, and most of the other players use external forces to motivate them. So you play great, then everybody tells you how wonderful you are, and then the next game you stink. To find a level of self-motivation that will make you a true champion is what we're all searching for, to hopefully break the curse."
We finished. Walton stood, and walked along the baseline. He had talked about how much work he had to do before tonight's tip, but after looking at Eddie and Jackson Jordan on the court, Walton stripped off his Dylan sweatshirt to reveal a tie-dyed t-shirt, and stepped out on the court. Immediately, Jackson Jordan launched a floater that soared over Walton's outstretched arms and into the basket.
"Yes!" Walton said. "In the big man's face! Throw it down!"
Jackson fed Walton the ball in the high post, and then made a cut.
"There ya go," Walton said. "Anyone can play with the ball; who can play without it?"
Another Wizards PR ace, Brian Sereno, came up to join me in marveling at this scene: the coach of an NBA basketball team that's supposed to be in chaos, standing and watching while Bill Walton, in tie-dye t-shirt and black jeans, coached up his young son through the generous dispensation of vaguely mystical-sounding aphorisms.
"Look at me, look at me," Walton shouted, holding up his hand. "How many fingers, how many fingers? While you're dribbling...."
"Three, one, four," Jackson called out, playing along.
"Pound it, pound it hard," Walton said to the dribbling Jackson. "Don't let the ball dribble you; you dribble the ball. The harder you pound the ball, and the quicker, the more sure you know it will come back up."
Anyhow, that's what I'd ask you to consider, Wiz fans. Don't let the ball dribble you; you dribble the ball. The harder you pound the ball, the more sure you can be that it will come back up. Also, please don't boo the home team.
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