Former Broadcaster and UCLA Great Bill Walton Contemplated Suicide Over Back Pain

It’s an exciting time in Los Angeles — NBA playoff time — but there’s one familiar voice you won’t hear calling any Lakers games this year: that of former UCLA great Bill Walton. The basketball legend and Emmy winning broadcaster retired 14 months ago due to debilitating back pain from his playing days. After contemplating suicide, Walton underwent experimental back surgery, the 36th surgical procedure of his life, and it appears to have worked.

Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune tells the story:

Walton, one of the all-time-great basketball players, a man whose intelligence and enthusiasm enabled him to roll over every pothole in his past and find success in most every endeavor he’s undertaken, admits the incredible pain brought about by a bad back took him to the brink, where he contemplated taking his own life.

“I’m getting back into the game of life,” Walton, throwing both of his long arms in the air, was saying as we sat outside his San Diego home. “I have a new life now. It got to the point where my life wasn’t worth living. I was standing on the edge of the bridge, figuring it was better to jump than to go back to where I was.”

How bad were things?

“I can’t describe the pain. Think of being submerged in a tub of boiling acid with an electrified current running through it. That would be nothing. People who haven’t had that nerve pain can’t know. It’s debilitating, excruciating, unrelenting. I had to eat lying on the floor, flat on my stomach.

“It was not an elective surgery. I couldn’t even crawl. No drug worked. I tried everything — acupuncture, yoga, massage. You name it, I did it.”

Walton still has lingering pain, but his situation has improved enough that he can now ride a bike, swim and lift weights at his leisure.
He says his broadcasting days are over however.

Publish date: April 21, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT