NOTHING BUT NET

JUST GIVE ME THE BALL AND GET OUT OF THE WAY

Hall-of-Fame cager Walton looks back at his injury-ridden college and NBA career. With the help of Los Angeles Times sportswriter Wojciechowski (Pond Scum and Vultures, 1990), Walton sticks pretty much to the game: there's only passing mention of his many battles and controversies with owners, refs, and the media; of his involvement in the Patty Hearst case; his celebrated Vietnam War protests; and his ongoing relationship with the Grateful Dead. He waxes nostalgic, though, for the good old days at UCLA (1970-74) and his two NCAA championships there, and he's unabashed in praising former coach John Wooden. He also lauds Larry Bird (the ``best player I ever played with''), Bill Russell (``the best player in the history of basketball''), Jack Ramsay, Lenny Wilkins, Jammal Wilkes, Red Auerbach and Michael Jordan, but deals glancing blows at Clyde ``The Glide'' Drexler, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and NBA rookie Chris Webber. During his 13 years in the NBA, Walton underwent an incredible 30 operations, many of them on his feet, and calculates that he sat out nine seasons—762 games—because of injuries. Even so, he was a force in two NBA titles—with Portland in 1977, and the Boston Celtics in 1986. It wasn't all glory, however: He ``despised the level of selfishness'' on the Portland team, a criticism he aims at many of today's players. He often failed to get along with teammates, threatened to quit, and even filed a malpractice suit against the team doctor. He laments his years with the San Diego Clippers, blaming himself for the franchise's failure and eventual move to L.A. Having overcome a stutter, Walton is now an NBC analyst and broadcaster. Walton is all over the court and regrettably side-steps some issues. But it hardly matters: he's still one of the game's most interesting personalities. (Eight pages of b&w photos—not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 1994

ISBN: 1-56282-793-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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