Bill Walton visits Gastonia Thursday night to talk about coming back.
Specifically, the 60-year-old Walton will be talking about returning from terrible back pain in a free educational seminar open to the public.
“I had no idea what life was like without back pain until I had my surgery three years and 10 months ago,” Walton said in a phone interview. “My spine had collapsed in 2007, and I spent three long years basically on the floor because it was so debilitating.”
Walton’s back problems began at age 21 when he was playing basketball for UCLA and had his legs knocked out from under him in what he calls a “despicable act” by another player. He returned later that season, playing for the Bruins team that lost to eventual champion N.C. State and David Thompson in the 1974 Final Four in Greensboro.
“David Thompson is the greatest college player I ever played against and still a friend,” said Walton, who now lives in San Diego. “What a fantastic guy – I am hoping to see him while I’m in North Carolina.”
Walton, a basketball hall of famer, dealt with back issues throughout his NBA career and for the next 36 years. But he said he is now pain-free and doesn’t take any medication. He also said he wasn’t being paid for his appearance in Gastonia, but will be doing it on a volunteer basis as he does for a number of similar visits around the country.
“I had nothing, because I didn’t have my health,” Walton said. “Now I have everything back. So I have a responsibility to try to do as much as I can to help other people in similar situations.”
Pre-registration for the event is not necessary but is encouraged. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Gastonia Conference Center in Gastonia and will be co-hosted by local neurosurgeon William Hunter. For more information, call 800-745-7099 or go to TheBetterWayBack.org.