Letters to the Editor: What it was like to grow up with Bill Walton, a 'local legend on city playgrounds'

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 20: Bill Walton attends a basketball game.
Bill Walton attends a game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns at Arena in 2023. (Allen Berezovsky / Getty Images)

To the editor: Bill Walton's death hit me pretty hard, and why wouldn't it? We lived in parallel universes. ("Bill Walton, UCLA legend, NBA star and Pac-12 advocate, dies at age 71," May 27)

We were born two weeks apart. He grew up in La Mesa, a San Diego suburb, and I grew up in the next town over. By the time he was 11, he was already a local legend on city playgrounds. Our fathers both worked as social workers for San Diego County.

I used to watch him play for Helix High School when our two schools met. He was skilled, yes, and already had a keen basketball mind, but did anyone think then that he would go on to win two NCAA championships and two NBA titles? Well, no — nobody except Walton, that is.

Walton was an original. He had humor, courage, dignity and strength. He wasn't afraid to speak up. He brought a lot of joy into this world and his presence will be sorely missed.

Finally, and fittingly as we pay our last respects, a Grateful Dead song comes to mind: "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad."

Mark Richardson, Encinitas


To the editor: Walton was a huge supporter of the Pac-12 and constantly referred to it as the "conference of champions." Perhaps it is somewhat fitting that his death coincides with the death of the Pac-12.

Rest in peace, Bill. You will be greatly missed.

Joel Jamison, Carpinteria


To the editor: Walton’s death is a great loss to humanity. He was the epitome of a life-long learner, open and eager for new experiences, cultures and knowledge.

He was always self-effacing, directing the praise and focus to others. Yes, he annoyed me by his lack of attention to the game he was supposed to be analyzing. But I think he found today's basketball uninteresting, so he leaped from topic to topic, unable to contain his enthusiasm for sharing what he saw as the infinite miracles of life.

In these fraught times, Walton's open-hearted optimism and ability to find wonder and goodness everywhere will be sorely missed.

Greg Heninger, Whittier

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.