In this excerpt from “The Book of Basketball,” Bill Walton talks about how he had a hard time guarding Larry Bird, who was faster than him.

Bill Walton Still Haunted by Larry Bird on a Fast Break at a Boston Celtics Practice. Bill Walton is the former NBA player who was known for his tenacious defense and rebounding skills. He played with the Boston Celtics from 1978-1987, winning three championships in 1984, 1986, and 1987. In 1986 he averaged 23 points per game and led the league in rebounds with 12.5 per game. Read more in detail here: larry bird and bill walton best game together video.

Bill Walton Still Haunted by Larry Bird on a Fast Break at a Boston Celtics Practice

Bill Walton, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, recalls licking his chops during a Boston Celtics practice at Hellenic College over 35 years later. Walton like being the lone defender on a quick break, albeit it didn’t happen very often. He recalls being giddy as he attempted to take on Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Danny Ainge as they charged at him.

Even though Walton was outmanned, he relished the task. He was all set to go. When the ball fell into Bird’s hands, Walton’s smile faded.

Bill Walton was an important part of the Boston Celtics’ championship team in 1986.


Bill-Walton-Celtics-1024x691 During an NBA basketball game at MECCA Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1986, Bill Walton of the Boston Celtics jumps up to block the jumper of Paul Pressey of the Milwaukee Bucks. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport

After beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals, the Celtics fell short in the 1985 NBA Finals. The bench was Boston’s worst weakness in 1985. The Celtics quickly remedied the situation by acquiring Walton, an experienced big man who was the league’s MVP in 1978.

Walton was prone to injury, missing three complete seasons in a row due to a foot issue. Bird, McHale, and Robert Parish already made up one of the finest frontcourts in NBA history for the Celtics. Walton didn’t have to bear the brunt of the burden. For a few minutes, he just needed to spell the major names.

During the 1985-86 season, Walton was flawless in his duties. His health had a significant role in this. He played in more games (80) in that season than he had in any of his prior nine NBA seasons. He was in desperate need of a change of scenery.

“It finally dawned on me in the summer of 1985,” Walton stated in a 2020 Boston Celtics video tribute to the 1986 club. “It wasn’t working out for me anymore, so I had to move on from my present situation with the Clippers and join a much better squad.”

Walton averaged 19.3 minutes per game in his debut season with the Celtics. He scored 7.6 points and grabbed 6.8 rebounds.

During a Boston Celtics practice, Bill Walton was still disturbed by a Larry Bird fast break.

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Walton loved his time in Boston. He still beams when he talks about his NBA title with the Celtics. During a 2020 appearance on the Ryan & Goodman Podcast, longtime Boston Globe reporter Bob Ryan asked Walton what it was like to play with Bird. He specifically asked from a pure basketball standpoint, what was the most fun about playing with Bird?

“There isn’t a single thing,” Walton said. “It’s never-ending.” The fact that the person was so brilliant tingled my brain the most, or among the things that tingled my brain. And how he knew where everyone was at all times, on and off the floor, and what they were doing. Being the lone defender against the fast break was one of my favorite aspects of basketball. This is something I used to see Bill Russell do all the time.

“Larry, I had it one time in practice at Hellenic College while I was back on defense. I mean, I was responsible for the whole staff’s safety. Because they wore white jerseys, the first squad was dubbed the white team. Because we wore green jerseys, the second string was dubbed the green team. The white team was dubbed the “stat team” by the green team because we believed they were just concerned with their own statistical achievements and selfishness.

“They were coming at me on a fast break, and there was a lot of trash-talking going on.” Larry, Kevin, Danny, Chief, and DJ were there. They’re all rushing for me. My boys weren’t even planning on returning, but I had them. I’d thought of everything. I knew I had Larry when the ball came to him. I was going to send it in the other direction. Larry tracked out a man I had misplaced. I was really angry because I had him smothered, covered, and he managed to get out of it and deliver it to a person I had lost sight of.

“They were successful in scoring.” It’s too bad. Instead of sending it back and starting the fast break the other way, I had to take it out of bounds.”

Walton was a big part in making the 1986 Celtics one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

The major components had previously been installed. Walton was the last one, and he may have made the difference in the 1985-86 season for the Celtics. Not only did the Celtics win the NBA championship in six games against the Houston Rockets, but several players believe they are the finest team ever.

“We had a terrific team, and we loved one other,” Walton stated in a video released by the Boston Celtics during an interview with Brian Scalabrine. “We liked the way we played and were confident that we could finish the job.” We’re going to take a risk. We’ll take our chances against anybody, anywhere, at any time. We had everything. Size, strength, power, finesse, skill, discipline, and talent were all on our side.

“At the end of the day, we just had Red Auerbach, K.C. Jones, Larry Bird, and Kevin McHale.”

That team’s starting center, Robert Parish, agreed. He also said that Walton made the difference.

On SiriusXM NBA Radio, Parish remarked, “I would put that squad up against any team that’s ever been constructed.” “Bill Walton was unquestionably the differentiator.”

RELATED: Larry Bird said the Boston Celtics’ continued success hinged on one player — and it wasn’t him — after winning three consecutive MVP awards.

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