Walton addresses ASU students with message of inspiration, responsibility

TEMPE, Ariz. - Vietnam. Basketball. The Grateful Dead. Immigration. John Wooden.

These topics could only come together with Bill Walton, who made his stop to Arizona State University Tuesday on the “Walton on Wheels” Pac-12 campus tour.

The emcee was none other than former ASU guard Kyle Dodd. He’s known for brawling with former Arizona guard Luke Walton, Bill’s son, during a heated Territorial Cup game in 2002.

It didn’t take long before that moment was brought up during Dodd and Walton's banter. It was one of the first topics. Walton gave Dodd a hard time about the incident, but he actually liked that Dodd fought his son.

“I’m inspired and I’m proud of Kyle,” Walton said. “Kyle did a great job today under extreme duress, but it’s extremely important to be able to stand up and fight. He’s a giant. He’s a true champion.”

[Related: Bus tour brings Walton back to his roots]

Dodd didn’t get a chance to say much. He asked about four questions, one in which he asked Walton to say his signature, “Throw it down!” line often heard on television. Dodd gave Walton the floor as he rambled about whatever was on his mind to about 150 students. The stories were completely random, where it seemed the categories on a Jeopardy board had more connection, but he always brought it back to his main point.

“My message is one of hope,” Walton said. “My message is of one of building your life and chasing your dreams and the ability to overcome the adversity. Make something of the chance you got in a world that’s overcome by selfishness and greed and fear. These young people are trying with everything they have to make it, to be a part of something special. They need to know it’s all out there for them.”

Walton has overcome a great deal of adversity in his life battling through multiple injuries - he said he no longer deals with pain and does not take medication.

“It’s a miracle what’s happened to me,” Walton said.

Walton reflected back on his relationship with Wooden and recited the infamous “Pyramid of Success” right off the top of his head. He said he lost every single argument, from Vietnam to facial hair, to Wooden because he always threatened to kick him off the team.

Walton said his teammates asked Wooden later in their lives if he seriously thought about kicking Walton off the team. “The only thing that matters is that Bill thought I was going to do it,” Wooden responded.

[Related: Walton returns to UCLA on Pac-12 tour]

Walton quoted Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. when discussing the current issues in the United States. He noted Arizona is on the front lines on immigration, jobs and gun control.

“All the different things every single day, right here,” Walton said. You’re your chance, your responsibility to make that difference.”

After a few more references to the Grateful Dead and the fake Bill Walton Twitter account, Walton took pictures and signed autographs with the students at the end of the event.

“The message to all these kids is to use this tremendous opportunity to build your life and chase your dreams,” Walton said. “Don’t let college basketball, don’t let college, don’t let other people use you. Be in that spot where you’re the creator.”

Master Tesfatsion is a senior at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and covers Arizona State football and  basketball for The State Press, ASU's student newspaper.

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