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Back from the Dead Hardcover – March 22, 2016
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“Elegaic yet exuberant. . . . A celebration of a life in sports that is also a frank assessment of the toll basketball took on his body. . . . [Walton] writes writes with admirable candor.” Author: John Swansburg Source: The New York Times Book Review
“A remarkable journey of resilience, reinvention and ultimate triumph told in the unique voice of one of the great pundits—and players—of our generation.” Author: David J. Stern, NBA Commissioner Emeritus
“This isn’t a basketball story, it’s a story of victory over adversity and the Tao of positive thinking. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Bill Walton is a winner.” Author: Mickey Hart, Drummer/Percussionist, Grateful Dead
“Bill Walton played the game of life with the same verve as he did the game of basketball, even in the face of crippling injuries and withering pain. Funny, poignant and inspiring, Back from the Dead is a rollicking, riveting memoir, told with characteristic honesty by one of America’s most compelling personalities.” Author: David Axelrod, Author of BELIEVER: My Forty Years in Politics
“Larger than life, with a heart and soul to match his reach and accomplishments, Bill Walton has written a compelling autobiography, Back from the Dead. This is Walton at his best, a great friend who helps you overcome even the most brutal setback.” Author: Roger McNamee, tech investor, musician, Deadhead
“Walton adroitly weaves his personal and professional lives in this frequently stirring memoir. . . . [His] love for life and the people and things in it—including his college coach, John Wooden—is infectious. You can’t stop reading, or rooting for the man.” Source: Publishers Weekly
"Fervent, witty. . . . One of the NBA's 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one." Source: Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
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I was into basketball as a pre-teen. I played forward for a little while but really settled into my role as a guard. I played until junior high school when I stopped playing soccer and basketball and focused entirely on tennis, which lasted until high school when I smashed my last wood racquet on the court. After that, I ran track and cross country and really began my love of long distance running.
I dug Bill Walton when he played for the Trail Blazers. My team as a little kid was the Dallas Chaparrals until the ABA blew up. I didn't really have a team again until I moved to Boston to go to college, so I just liked individual players. When I eventually stopped paying attention to basketball in high school, even though the Dallas Mavericks were now my home town team (and I won a Dallas Mavericks college scholarship for $1,000 for some reason I can't remember), I lost touch with pretty much all the players. So it was fun to see Walton re-appear in my junior and senior years at MIT on the Boston Celtics, which re-energized my interest in basketball a tiny bit (it didn't hurt that the Celtics were completely dominant in that time period.)
In Back from the Dead Walton covers his years playing at UCLA, Phoenix, and Boston in great detail. He also talks about his time on the San Diego - and then LA Clippers - which includes some scathing commentary on the craziness and misery that was the team under Donald Sterling in its early years.
The basketball stories, especially some of the detailed history, is fun to read. I've always enjoyed sports history from a first person point of view of a player, and Walton doesn't disappoint. But that's simply the foundation for the book.
Walton's basketball brilliance is interspersed with endless injuries. He talks about them in detail - initially the physical struggles, but then the mental struggles as the pain as well as the time recovering and rebuilding grows. He doesn't complain, but shows a vulnerable side in his description of his struggles. For a period of time, he's at the top and bottom of the game at almost the same time, fighting through the injuries until they overwhelm his ability to recover and he finally retires.
He then goes through his career as a sportscaster. Mixed throughout is his love for and journeys with the Grateful Dead. And then his spine breaks, ESPN fires him gratuitously (they eventually rehire him under new management, but he skims over this), and a very long recovery begins.
At this point, you can feel Walton's pain. Sure - the physical pain is there, but the emotional pain is profound. And his writing about it is powerful. And clean. And clear.
He gets through it and ends the book filled with love and joy and the energy that bubbles throughout his early playing days. Overall, the book is a powerful reminder of this complicated thing we call life and how hard it can be, even when you are at the top.
I know Bill from the Grateful Dead world. I frequently see him at concerts by the various surviving members of the band and he always has a huge smile on his face as he soaks up the vibe. Bill wrote the foreword to my book with Brian Halligan “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead” and it’s by far the best part of the book, because among his many other skills, Bill is a writer. Which is why I so eagerly awaited this book.
“Back from the Dead” is much more than a basketball memoir (although it is a great one). It’s much more than an inspirational story of a man who beats the odds and rises up from life’s challenges. As I read Back from the Dead, I think its best quality is how we can all learn from this wonderful man about how to play to win at the game of life—grab it hard, take time for the music, experience all it has to offer, and hold on for the ride. What a long strange trip it's been for Bill, I’m glad he shared his story with us.
After reading this book I am a huge fan of Mr. Walton as a wonderful human being. His ability to see sunshine in the darkest of times, his internal strength at overcoming devastating injuries that only great athletes who play for decades can really experience, are truly inspiring. And while I've always like the music of the Grateful Dead, Walton does a better job than anyone I know to explain why the Dead phenomenon exists.
This is also a fantastic history of the game of basketball. Walton's expression of respect from teammates and opponents alike also show that he's just a good guy.
Great read by a guy who I will root for from this point on.