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Former Portland Trail Blazers big man Bill Walton fights for a rebound

Bill Walton Couldn’t Formulate Words During the Blazers’ Championship Ceremony Except to Humbly Request His Bike Be Returned: ‘At Some Point, I’m Going to Have to Get Home’

Former Portland Trail Blazers center and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton wasn't much of an orator during the team's championship parade in 1977. He was so overcome with emotion that he could only ask for his motorcycle after it got lost in the crowd.

Long before he became known as a Grateful Dead stan and emphatic color commentator, Bill Walton was the engine driving the Portland Trail Blazers organization.

Walton remains one of the biggest stars in the history of the UCLA men’s basketball program. His stardom continued to grow upon making the leap to the NBA, where he helped the Blazers to a championship in 1977.

The Hall of Fame center hilariously recalled being so overcome with emotion during the championship celebrations that he could only think to ask for the return of his beloved bike.

Bill Walton powered the Blazers to an NBA championship in 1977

Once upon a time, Bill Walton was one of the very best players in the NBA.

The Blazers made the former Bruins star the No. 1 overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft. It wasn’t long before Walton helped lead Portland to the mountaintop.

Walton rapidly developed into one of the best two-way centers in basketball during the 1976-77 season. He averaged 18.6 points and led the NBA in rebounds (14.4) and blocked shots (3.2) while also averaging 3.8 assists.

The Red Baron took his dominance to another level during the 1977 playoffs. He averaged 18.2 points, 15.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 3.4 blocks during Portland’s run to the title.

Those numbers offer but a snapshot of Walton’s two-way impact. He thoroughly dominated in the NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 18.5 points, 19.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 3.7 blocks.

Walton put the cherry on top of a Finals MVP showing with a remarkable performance in the series-clinching Game 6. Walton scored 20 points and overpowered the Sixers on the glass, grabbing 23 boards. He also dished out seven assists and swatted everything in sight, finishing the contest with eight blocks.

Walton’s incredible run of games resulted in the Blazers capturing the first championship in franchise history and kicked off massive celebrations in the Pacific Northwest.

Only, Walton had no clue how to process the achievement. He was more concerned with finding his ride home from the parade.

Walton lost his bike at the parade and could only think to ask for it back when he spoke during the celebrations

Former Portland Trail Blazers big man Bill Walton fights for a rebound
John Gianelli #40 of the New York Knicks battles for position with Bill Walton #32 of the Portland Trail Blazers during an NBA basketball game circa 1975 at Madison Square Garden in the Manhattan borough of New York City | Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Bill Walton felt festive immediately following the Blazers’ championship triumph. At least, until he didn’t.

In his 2016 memoir, entitled Back from the Dead, Walton explained that he remained in the locker room hours after Portland’s Game 6 victory to soak up the win and later went to a “downtown penthouse palace” called Lionel’s. The next morning, he arrived at the championship parade on his bike, only for the masses to promptly swallow it up as if it got lost in the Willamette River

Walton said he was so overcome with emotion that he suddenly became speechless when former mayor Neil Goldschmidt handed him the microphone. He could only think to humbly request that the adoring fans return his method of transportation.

“Thank you — for a real good time. And will the guy who took my bike down at the start of this whole thing please bring it back, because at some point, I’m going to have to get home.”

–Bill Walton, Back from the Dead (Page 197)

It feels entirely appropriate that something like this would happen to a true Deadhead such as Walton.

The Hall of Fame center’s career would never be the same because of recurring foot injuries. Still, Walton had one last hurrah with the 1985-86 Celtics and remains a prominent figure in the sport, primarily because of his hilarious antics as a color commentator.

Walton has provided endless comedic value since transitioning from player to commentator


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If his memoir is any indication, Bill Walton clearly has a knack for narrative storytelling and is hardly a stranger to oddities. He also has a knack for theatrics.

Walton has been an NBA and NCAA commentator for the past few decades and has never been shy about letting his goofy, Deadhead side shine through. This is especially true with regards to his NCAA color commentary.

The former Bruins star typically dons the headset for Pac-12 games, and viewers never quite know what they’re going to get. Sometimes Walton will randomly rip his shirt off or show up a prop on set. He’ll even eat a cupcake with the candle still lit.

Basically, Bill Walton is a goofy dude, and it’s really no wonder that he found a way to be somewhat awkward and humorous during the Blazers championship celebrations.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.