In April of 2010, Bill Walton confessed to the world that he once contemplated suicide because his back pain had become so unbearable. He was spending the majority of his days on his back, suffering through the simplest of activities. He was incapable of broadcasting basketball games or even participating in the daily activities that so many of us take for granted.
If you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing him in real life, and not just on a TV screen, you were probably shocked when he gave that glimpse into the depth of his everyday struggle with back pain.
During the past NBA season, he was getting back into the broadcasting business with the help of the Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics. A couple of times, I happened to be in the Kings media room before games when Bill was around. It sounds a little cliché, but being around him you could really see how much he enjoyed the basketball and NBA experience.
Watching him interact with Kings Director of Player Personnel, Jerry Reynolds, and seeing the joy those discussions brought to his face, made me think back to this quote from last year:
"It got to the point where my life wasn’t worth living. I was standing on the edge of the bridge, figuring it was better to jump than to go back to where I was.”
“You can’t understand until you’ve been where I’ve been.”
A little over a year later, the red-headed giant has gone from hoping his latest back procedures can continue to turn his life around to riding a bicycle for 10 hours while traversing the highways of Oregon.
Jonathan Maus from BikePortland.org has a story (and pictures) of his friend Jeff Bernards taking Bill Walton on this ride.
I suggested he ride to Multnomah Falls and back. I said that’s about 60 miles, he said he needed 100 miles. I’m thinking you’ve had nearly 40 knew surgeries... 100 miles?!! OK.
After our adventure in Gorge, Bill was just getting warmed up. He still wanted to ride out to the coast (by himself, with his wife driving a sag vehicle). I put together a route for him to Astoria, via the Banks-Vernonia Trail and Hwy 202 and then the Lewis & Clark Rd. to Seaside and Hwy 101 to Cannon Beach. He called me when he got to Cannon Beach. He did the whole ride in 10 hours!
Back in May of this year, Walton was participating in the L’Etape du California, a chance for amateur cyclists to find out what it’s like to ride a full stage of the Tour of California. Now he’s pushing himself even further by cycling through the Oregon countryside.
It’s good to see that he’s no longer forced to take his ailments lying down.