Saturday, February 4, 2017

Book Review: NOTHING BUT NET

I recently read a new book by Bill Walton, which turned me from a fan of the oft-injured, somewhat legendary former basketball great into--well, something less than a fan. Sports "autobiographies" in general seem to get recycled more often than any other type of books. Our local library is not overly large, and the sports section isn't particularly extensive--but just in the last few years, I have read multiple books written by Charles Barkley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and now Walton. And one reason I like to read multiple books by the same author, detailing the same life and the same career, is to see what changes over time.
Nothing But Net was written in 1994, just after Walton was inducted into the Hall of Fame,and is hopelessly dated in some places, He talked about how Michael Jordan shouldn't have retired, to take one obvious example, and his thoughts on his all-time All-Star team seem almost silly now (Elvin Hayes? Really?) And the basic narcissism that still is characteristic of Walton was very pronounced nearly 25 years ago as well. He jokes about it, but his Hall of Fame induction speech went ten minutes long, and the official presiding over it's barb that his speech ran longer than his career was as stinging a rebuke as I've ever heard in one of those situations--and he completely missed the point. His children and family barely merit mentions (considering how they were treated in his later book, that's probably a good thing). But the most jarring part of this book are his thoughts on HIV/AIDS. Granted, this was a long time ago, But in the midst of Magic Johnson's comeback, his naked prejudice and complete willingness to disregard medical opinion, even at the time, is stunning. This sentence is actually in the book: "Doctors and other medical professionals tell us that the risk of getting infected from playing with an HIV-positive individual is infinitesimal. But I'm not convinced."
And that, in a nutshell, is all you need to know about Bill Walton. He is a blowhard, someone terminally self-centered, someone who is convinced that he is right (until he is not) and feels entitled to believe whatever he wants to believe and say so openly, and it doesn't matter if he's full of shit or not. I'm sure Walton's views have changed since 1994; most of America's have. But the overwhelmingly narcissism and self-centeredness of Bill Walton has not changed.
He might have a great, if unlucky, basketball player. But he is also a nitwit of the first order. And frankly, I am glad that he is off the airwaves. It's one thing to be opinionated; it's another to actually be informed and knowledgeable. Walton wasn't the latter in 1994, and he wasn't in 2016, either.

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