Bill Walton Coming to Elkhart ‘To Make a Difference'

May 06, 2013

Bill Walton knows about adversity and he knows about Indiana and it’s special place in his heart.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer will be in Elkhart Friday, May 17 as part of Oak Lawn’s 14th “Spring Spectacular” at The Lerner Theatre to share his message of hope along with a “frolicking romp through history and the future” while raising awareness and funds.

“Health is the single foundational pillar for happiness in life,” said Walton in a phone interview with The Elkhart Truth Monday. “It’s an incredible opportunity to come and be a part of something so special, so unique, so powerful as the combination of Oaklawn and the communities of Elkhart and St. Joseph counties.

“I’m very fortunate that I’m able to help others chase their dreams and build their lives. That’s why I’m coming to Elkhart.”

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7:30 show on May 17. Tickets are $30 for general admission.

Groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets for $20 each. For ticket information, visit or call The Lerner box office at 574-293-4469.

Walton encourages people to bring memorabilia to be signed and cameras for photo opportunities.

“I will be the last one to leave the building,” said Walton. “We’re having a grand celebration of what life could and can be. We’re coming to make a difference.”

Walton knows physical obstacles very well, having undergone 37 orthopedic operations and missing almost 10 years of his professional basketball career to injury.

The well-known Grateful Dead fan is grateful for the health he enjoys and spends much of his time speaking on behalf of organizations like The Better Way Back for people in-crisis with spinal issues and Challenged Athletes Foundation, which obtains wheelchairs and prosthetics of amputee athletes).

“When you have the privilege and good fortune of your health (mental, physical, psychological and emotional), you have a responsibility, indeed, an obligation (to give back),” said Walton. “Our responsibility is to stall tall and do what’s right.”

Choosing not to bring a message of fear or intimidation, Walton will talk about how to build a life and how to deal with tough times.

“What tools can we use in terms of building the foundation, becoming the champion and, ultimately, becoming the leader?,” said Walton. “But, also, what happens when the ball bounces the other way?”

The former UCLA star, NBA world champion and current basketball broadcaster is thankful for the sacrifices of the people in his life — his parents, coaches, teachers, role models, doctors, family and business partners — who have sacrificed to get him to where he is today.

“It’s that concept of a team that we have to have,” said Walton. “None of this just happens by itself. It is a team effort.”

Walton has a deep affection with the Hoosier State through basketball.

Walton counts Indiana hoops legends John Wooden,Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson among his biggest inspirations. Walton played for the late Wooden, played with Bird and counts all three as friends.

“I’ve heard so many stories over the years from Coach Wooden and so many stories about northern Indiana,” said Walton. “It’s a special place for me. I’ve been all over the state. I have a lot of memories — on both ends of the spectrum.”

There are highs of victories and the low that came with UCLA’s victory streak coming to an end at 88 games at Notre Dame back in 1974.

“There are the trips to French Lick and times spent in Indianapolis as a broadcaster and a player,” said Walton. “The month of May is always a special time because we did so many games there when the Pacers were on fire when Larry was the coach and general manager. There would always be that big, big game on Memorial Day.

“I would never, ever miss the chance of going over to that Medal of Honor Memorial,” said Walton. “I would just say a prayer of thanks and appreciation for the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters and how important it is.”