International Volleyball

Grateful for time spent with Bill Walton, some volleyball ties, and a favorite story

Grateful for time spent with Bill Walton, some volleyball ties, and a favorite story

Bill Walton/UCLA photo

Like so many of us who covered basketball the past five decades, we interviewed, got to know and couldn’t help just loving Bill Walton.

And we all had stories. The greatest player when healthy. The Grateful Dead. The best guy. My favorite, a little different, follows.

I first met him Thanksgiving week of 1989 when LSU basketball coach Dale Brown brought Walton in to help then-freshman Shaquille O’Neal. I was the LSU basketball beat writer for the local newspaper, The Advocate, and that was a special practice week.

We’ve looked everywhere, but neither my son, Kirk, nor I can find the picture we have of him rebounding for Walton and O’Neal. He was 7 and would one day play college basketball.

For that matter, it was the culmination of Kirk’s career at Berry College that led me to write HoopDaddy, a book that published in 2005 about fathers, sons and basketball.

One of the chapters was about the Waltons, Bill and his basketball-playing sons Luke, Nate, Adam and Sam. 

As you no doubt know by now from the outpouring of love and tributes, Walton was gracious with his time and was a pleasure to interview. For HoopDaddy, we met and stayed all day on a set in Pasadena in 2004 when Walton was there shooting an NBA Nike commercial. We interviewed in between takes in his trailer. I never took a photo with Bill, but my wife, Brenda, shot this that day:

Lee with Bill Walton in December 2004.

And while Walton was a hoops guy through and through, he was not unfamiliar with beach volleyball. 

“I played with him in a few tourneys.” his longtime friend Jon Lee said. “Once against Wilt at the Muscle Beach Open. We played an exhibition at Huntington vs. Lee and Menges, too. He loved the scene.”

Lee was Jon’s brother, Greg, who died last year. Greg and Bill were best of friends. Greg often played beach volleyball with the Walton boys. The celebration of Greg’s life was at Walton’s home. This photo is from that day:

Jon Lee with Bill Walton at Greg Lee’s celebration of life.

Back to that time they played together.

“Wilt played with Pete Aronchick, a 6-8 AAA beach player and basketball stud. We won game one, but the heat got to the redhead and we lost in three,” Lee recalled. “Only match I’ve ever been the quickest guy on the court.”

Greg Lee was not only Walton’s UCLA basketball teammate, but an outstanding beach volleyball player. He didn’t play volleyball at UCLA, got involved in the game at Sorrento Beach. Greg Lee went…

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