Walton had First Knee Surgery at the Age of 14
In the annals of high school boys basketball, there have been literally millions of players who have laced up their shoes to step on the court to chase their dreams and represent their schools.
However, there might have never been a high school player who more fully embraced the time-honored fundamentals of Dr. James Naismith’s game, and at the same time completely dominated play at both ends of the court than Bill Walton.
Perhaps better known to the general populace as the three-time NCAA Player of the Year at UCLA and for his National Basketball Association (NBA) career in which he won two titles, was twice named MVP, and was named one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players ever, the 6-foot-11 center was equally astounding and successful at the prep level where he totally dominated the middle for La Mesa, California’s Helix High School.
While one might naturally assume that Walton grew up in a sports-oriented family with parents who influenced him to pursue athletics, the total opposite was the reality.
“My parents were the most un-athletic people ever and were not involved with sports at any level—as either participants or spectators — other than as great, loving and supportive parents,” Walton said.
“We had a wonderful family life built around classical music, books, education and the radio. In the early days there was no TV. My mom was our town’s librarian. I have faint memories of my dad trying to run to first base at the church picnic’s softball game. I don’t think he made it safely.
“I started playing basketball when I was eight years old. I had a dream life growing up. A big part of that was playing for my first coach Rocky Graciano. Rocky coached all sports — life really — and started the programs at our school, as a volunteer, because he was dissatisfied with the opportunities available to us at the time.”
When Walton started at Helix High School, he was a slashing 5-11 guard on the freshman team. Given that position, it was logical that he idolized some of the great backcourt players of the day.
“I grew up emulating Jerry West and Pete Maravich,” Walton explained. “Then the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I tore up my knee torching some really old guys, they were in their 30s, and I had my first operation at age 14. While recovering from that operation, I grew 6½ inches.
“Everything changed for me from that point forward. I had been an open-court flyer, and then all of a sudden I became an under-the-basket player. Bill Russell was my favorite player of all time — both on and off the court. He was so very inspirational. He was my role model, as I changed my game to focus on becoming an inside player.”
Walton subsequently joined the Helix varsity team part-time as a sophomore, where he played for coach Gordon Nash—who was also the biology teacher at Helix.
- #05 (Walton)
- #08 (Wedman)
- #12 (Sichting)
- 1971-72 Lakers
- 2007-08 Scores
- Banner 17
- Grassy Knoll Network
- Green Mile
- Larry & Magic
- NBA Scoreboard
- Russell v. Chamberlain
- Walton Gang (1977)