Bill Walton: Healthy and Happy

Due to severe back pain, things had gotten so bleak in the last few years, that the Hall of Famer had contemplated suicide. But now, as he tells the NY Times, he’s feeling great once again: “It would take something extreme to rip Walton from the press table and push him into virtual solitude. It happened in February 2008. A back injury sustained decades ago had become a chronic, intensely painful condition that was destroying Walton’s spirit. There is no hyperbole in his description, only acute anguish and sorrow. ‘I had a life that was not worth living,’ Walton said Thursday. ‘I was on the floor and unable to move. The closest that I can come to describe it is, visualize yourself being submerged in a vat of scalding acid, with an electrifying current running through it. And there’s no way to ever get out.’ He added, ‘I had nothing.’ Walton, 57, has not called a game since that day and has only recently begun to re-engage with the world. He is healthy again, thanks to a surgical procedure that he says saved his life. He has become something of an evangelist for the doctor and the company that provided the template. He has no plans to return to broadcasting, but Walton has found a new outlet for his enthusiasm and oratory skills. ‘Basketball is one of those rare opportunities where you can make a difference, not only for yourself, but for other people as well,’ Walton said. ‘And now, as I’ve been able to climb back into the game of life one more time, that’s where I am.’ To help others with debilitating back problems, Walton is telling his story and, true to form, editing out nothing. There were days when he could not get off the floor. He could not sleep. He ate lying down. The pain was so intense that he considered suicide — an admission Walton made public last month in an interview with his hometown paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune. ‘This type of experience, ordeal, odyssey, it wrecks everything and it changes everything,’ Walton said Thursday. ‘You face every issue imaginable. Every issue — family, social, friends, financial, health — everything in your life is up in the air. You turn your back on people, friends, because it’s awful.”’