Bill Walton visits Outdoor Program

Outdoor Program shoots some hoopla with ESPN's Bill Walton

If anyone can motivate even a hard-core slacker to get outside on a dreary winter afternoon, it’s Bill Walton.

The former NBA star and current ESPN sportscaster-turned-hula-hooper, bike repairer and tie-dye aficionado stopped by the UO’s Outdoor Program and Bike Program suite in the Erb Memorial Union while on campus recently. It was a little like getting a visit from a very tall Energizer Bunny.

“This is where you come when you want to get going in life,” Walton said as he breezed through the doors. “Don’t sit on the couch watching TV and waiting for the game of life to fall in your lap. Let’s go!”

Walton was at the UO filming an episode of “Walton’s World,” a regular segment on his ESPN broadcasts. The version that aired during the UO-Arizona game focused on his tour of the campus arboretum with arborists Jane Brubaker and John Anthony.

But that didn’t stop Walton from leaving his mark on the Outdoor Program.

“I’m the concierge at the Oregon Outdoor Program today,” he said. “Would you like to go bike riding today? How about river rafting? Yes. Come. Step right up. Here we go! What more could you ask for?”

Never one to pass up a chance to play, Walton hula-hooped and tried his hand at fixing bikes.

“He’s a better basketball hooper than a hula-hooper,” student Clara Schneid said. “He made me laugh so much.”

Walton was full of questions for Bike Program staffers and wanted to know just how far the do-it-yourself bike shop could take him.

“What if you have no skill like me?” Walton asked student mechanic Nick Sander.  

“We’re here to help you,” Sander said.

“Can you do something about the rain and the cold and the wet?”

“That’s a do-it-yourself,” Sander replied.

Outdoor Program assistant director Salmon Stroich, who went on a bike ride with Walton, said the basketball legend is an example of what the Outdoor Program is all about.

“Bill has truly overcome intense obstacles in his life to attain excellence in sports, and more importantly to find peace and happiness as he grows older,” Salmon said. “Although he can’t play basketball anymore, it was great to get outdoors with Bill and see how riding a bike in nature is central to well-being and lifestyle.”

By Molly Blancett, University Communications