If you were up late watching ESPN Wednesday night, you were treated to Bill Walton as part of the broadcast team for the Trail Blazers vs. Warriors matchup. In 2012 Walton rejoined ESPN as a game analyst for Pac-12 basketball, but it was the NBA where Walton became a unique and popular broadcaster during the 90’s and early 2000’s.
When I flipped to ESPN and heard Walton, I quickly checked Twitter to see if others were as surprised and excited to hear Walton back on an NBA broadcast. Walton’s jump back to the NBA for one game was part of an ESPN promotion, “The Crossover,” which began in 2014.
“The Crossover” sees NBA and college basketball analysts’ switch sports for one game. Walton and Dick Vitale joined NBA broadcasts, Hubie Brown and P.J. Carlesimo did a college game. The former Trail Blazer joined Dave Pasch and Doris Burke on the call.
Walton joined NBC in 1990 following a Hall-of-Fame basketball career, he left for ESPN in 2002, retiring in 2009 due to a back injury suffered in college. While at NBC, Walton was often paired with analyst and former Trail Blazer teammate, Steve “Snapper” Jones who passed away last November at the age of 75.
Walton has been back with ESPN since 2012 covering the Pac-12 which doesn’t require as much travel as when he regularly did NBA games. He was grateful and excited about the opportunity to join Pasch and Burke for Wednesday night’s NBA broadcast.
“It was fantastic. The guys could not have been nicer,” Walton said. “They have to do this every day. But they could not have been more accommodating from top to bottom with the entire franchise. This is their job, but they are inspirational and incredibly rewarding. I learned a lot. But that’s why they’re the standard of excellence in today’s NBA, from the top to everybody.”
NBA fans weren’t the only ones excited to hear Walton back on an NBA broadcast, “Behind the mic, whether you love him or hate him or whether you want to go into that wild journey he always takes you when he’s calling the games,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said, “it’s always fun.”
“He’s obviously a little nuts in a really good way,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said with a smile. “He has a really good outlook on life. He has a lot of spirit and a lot of joy. He’s fun to be around.”