Bill Walton is standing in front of a basketball hoop in the gym at Helix Charter High School in La Mesa, and he’s talking about the journey of Bill Walton in the same voice he used for more than a decade as a basketball commentator on television. He speaks deliberately, often pausing between words for effect.
“Sometimes the light’s all shining on me. Other times, I can barely see,” he is saying, using an old Grateful Dead lyric. “But to be … back in the game of life at such a dynamic time… is really the greatest opportunity … and the greatest challenge.”
Forty years since he played at Helix, Walton has turned his sights back home to San Diego. The La Mesa native is starting over after 14 years in the NBA and 19 years as a broadcaster — this time as a businessman. Just since the year started, he’s emerged as a leading figure in three local business ventures.
Walton is the executive chairman of SD Sport Innovators, a trade group that mentors sports companies and is part of the nonprofit high-tech trade organization Connect. He’s also working as a spokesman for NuVasive, a local medical device company that developed a spinal procedure Walton underwent last year. And he’s a spokesman for Greener Dawn, a Solana Beach based-firm that specializes in energy efficiency consulting and helping young clean technology companies find investors.
A lot has changed for the two-time NBA champion. He won’t say why he left broadcasting last fall — only that “broadcasting left me.” Since then, Walton has focused on figuring out what he wants to do here, at home.
“I left here in 1970 to chase my dream. A lot of those dreams came true,” Walton says. “I’ve always lived here but I’m guilty of not being involved in all aspects of our great city. Now it’s time for me to help other people with their dreams.”