May the Spirit of Bill Walton Reign Over Oregon Basketball

Darren Perkins Editorials

OK, let’s get it out of the way.

Yes; his quirky, rambling, meandering and obscure commentary during basketball telecasts could be extremely frustrating — evoking reactions ranging from cute to cursing, endearing to eye-rolling, joy to “you’ve gotta be joking,” and from a sense of comradery to cursing. And, for some, simply anger.

But, for many of us, doesn’t that sound a hell of a lot like the state we love?

So, in a sense, Bill Walton was Oregon.

I pulled Mr. FishDuck from his fun where he learned how a Fanatics Sportsbook NC Promo Code will help you maximize your potential earnings if you are adding stakes to any game. He had a number of memories about Walton, being a lifelong Oregon resident.

During telecasts Walton had an odd habit of randomly referencing his 1977 championship Portland Trailblazers teammates. Maurice Lucas, Lionel Hollins, Johnny Davis and Larry Steele to name a few. I would assume the vast majority of the viewing audience had no idea who those players were. He was talking to a minority of us Oregon sports junkies almost as an inside joke, to which I would find myself in exasperation, responding, “Bill! Nobody knows who Dave Twardzik is!!”


And that encapsulated my general feelings toward Walton. I loved him and liked his color commentary, but sometimes he could drive me crazy.

Walton was an old hippie. He loved the Grateful Dead, riding his bike, nature, and Oregon: the state that adopted him after he brought its only professional sports championship in 1977. Walton came from Southern California, but Oregon was in his DNA. He had the good sense of putting others ahead of himself over the “me first” glamour of his native Los Angeles. This way of life served him well on the basketball court as he was one of the best passers and most unselfish players the game had ever known.

The 1977 final pitted the Trailblazers against the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers. As an egoless entity, the Blazers epitomized “team.” They played like graceful figure skaters on the hardwood where passing, off-the-ball cuts, and basketball IQ were emphasized over scoring and individual accolades. Coach Jack Ramsey would famously run practices where the ball would not touch the floor as the elegant sound of squeaking sneakers rang like Mozart in the ears of basketball purists.

In contrast, the Sixers were a motley crew of outlaws (think Jailblazers) with immense flash and talent led by the Michael Jordan of the 70s, Julius “Dr J” Irving. The Sixers were favored and had more individual talent than the Blazers, but wherein the sum of the whole was greater than that of the individual parts for the Blazers, the opposite was true of the Sixers.


In today’s era of NIL and transfers it is difficult to put together a true team as the “me first” mentality rules the day. Because of this, Dana Altman has had a difficult time putting together a true “team” the past few seasons, as the Ducks have always been at their best when they fielded a team as opposed to a group of self-directed individuals. The Luke’s (Jackson and Ridnour) under coach Ernie Kent, the 2017 Final Four team, and the Payton Pritchard era were all about team-first.

Altman is known for getting his teams to play their best toward the end of the season. Only a true team can grow together throughout the season and continually improve. At 65, and with an outstanding sophomore floor general leading the way in Jackson Shelstad, it feels as if Altman has at least one more great run of “team basketball” left in him at Oregon.

As long as he can get them to play Bill Walton basketball.

Oregon, the humble, quirky little state tucked away in the Pacific Northwest not known for its flashiness (minus uniforms) but rather for a collection of underdogs and misfits like Ken Kesey, Steve Prefontaine, and Phil Knight who rise to do great things. And that is what Oregonians relish the most.

Whether you loved or disliked Walton’s public persona, it was easy to recognize his joy, kindness, self-deprecation, and giving nature. At the very least, and above all else, you could see that Walton was a good person.

R.I.P. big man, and the piece of Oregon that passed away with you.

Darren Perkins
Spokane, WA
Top photo credit: From X

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in technology in SLC, Utah.


New 2024 FishDuck Publishing Schedule….

During the off-season the publishing schedule will consist of articles on Mondays and Tuesdays. Do keep checking as new articles could be published during the week when a writer has something to say.

In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

The Our Beloved Ducks Forum (OBD) is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there.  At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.

Our 33 rules at the free OBD Forum can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) do not tell anyone what to think, feel or write, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

OBD Forum members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!