Waltons foot
Walton's teams got to see a lot of this during his injury-plagued career.

Walton's foot (wolt'-uhnz foot) noun. A damning vulnerability or fatal flaw that can (and often does) doom an otherwise talented player or team.

Usage example: Allen Iverson's "I'm gonna do things my way and my way only" attitude has always been his Walton's foot.

Word history: I coined this term some time in the last couple years because I got tired of using the phrase Achilles' heel. As you probably know, that term originates from the mortal weakness of Achilles, a Greek hero of the Trojan War and the central character of Homer's Iliad.

How good was Bill Walton? Well, he won the MVP during a season (1977-78) in which he played only 58 games. Something like that had never happened before...and it hasn't happened since. But a better question is: how good would Walton have been if he'd been born with normal human feet? Many people have said that, in his early years, Walton was the best center on the planet when healthy. Unfortunately, he was never healthy.

Walton's basketball life was plagued by legendary foot problems, which were made worse by an insistence on playing through injuries and his use of prescription medication to mask the pain associated with them. The Big Redhead appeared in only 468 games during his 10-year career. That's the equivalent of about five-and-a-half seasons. Take away his magical 1985-86 season with the Boston Celtics -- during which he hobbled through a career-best 80 games -- and Walton never played more than 67 games in a single season. And those 67 games were for the 1984-85 L.A. Clippers, which is kind of like saying they never happened at all. For the record, that was the Clippers' first season in Los Angeles. They won only 31 games. Even back then, they were who we would later think they were.

Walton is best known for his days with the Portland Trail Blazers -- during which he won an NBA title and Finals MVP (in 1977) and that regular season MVP -- but he missed 119 games over his four seasons with the Blazers...and things ended badly. From the SI.com vault:

Last Friday evening, as reports began circulating that he might miss more than half of the coming season, Bill Walton left a Portland, Ore. clinic with a cast on his left leg. With the addition of the cast, the puzzle of what had happened to Walton, what had made him demand to be traded from the Trail Blazers, grew even more complicated. The sudden move left some friendships strained. It also left the city's basketball fans stunned. Just 14 months before, Walton was leading a raucous victory parade through the streets of downtown Portland after the Trail Blazers had won the National Basketball Association championship.

The initial shock came after a secret meeting in Chicago on Aug. 1 when Walton, who was voted the league's MVP last season, demanded that the Blazers trade him as soon as possible to a team of his choosing, which, late Sunday night, he announced was the Golden State Warriors.

Even more unsettling was the announcement from the Portland club that it "will attempt to abide by his request." And what made the whole thing a mystery was the addendum to which both sides agreed, at Walton's insistence: not to discuss the whys and wherefores of the strange affair.

Last week, however, Walton's reasons for demanding the trade became clearer. He believed that his latest injury -- a fractured bone in his left foot, which was diagnosed after he had appeared in a playoff game on April 21 -- might have been avoided if the Trail Blazers had provided him with proper medical advice and care. Walton also charged the team with the misuse of the pain-modifying drugs Xylocaine and Marcaine, and the anti-inflammatory drugs Butazolidin (phenylbutazone) and Decadron (dexamethasone).
Walton eventually filed both a malpractice lawsuit and a contract grievance against the Trail Blazers, and he got what he seemingly wanted: a one-way ticket out of Portland.

But what Walton really wanted was his health back. He never really got it. Even his one "healthy" season in Boston was tainted by a broken nose (which happened twice) and a broken bone in his wrist. Walton concealed the wrist injury because he felt the '86 Celtics were a special team (they were) and he wanted to finish the season (he did). But it was still Classic Walton. And the next summer, he broke a finger playing one-on-one against Robert Parish. While he was recovering from that injury, he tried to keep in shape by riding a stationary bike for hours on end. In doing so, he broke a bone in his "healthy" foot. That was more or less the end of his career, save for a few token appearances during the season and in the 1987 playoffs.

Before concluding, I want to make something perfectly clear: I have a lot of respect and admiration for Bill Walton. I am not mocking him. But he is a tragic figure who, like Achilles, was cut down by a natural weakness that was not his fault. This is simply my tribute to that fact.

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28 Comments:
Anonymous Geert (Netherlands) said...
How does one break a footbone while riding a stationary bike? Falling of the damn thing? Putting said foot between the wheel?

I'm with you on the respect thing. Also because of his appearance and shirts like this http://withmalice.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/bill-walton.jpg

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Even back then, they were who we would later think they were."

lmao

Anonymous CaptainHomeless said...
Vince Carter's heart has always been his Walton's foot.

Blogger chris said...
So in how many years is the term going to become "Greg Oden's Knee"?

And why does it seem that the Blazers have turrible luck with the lottery picks, dating back to their Sam Bowie before Sam Bowie was ever around, LaRue Martin!??!

Blogger jce said...
This Bucks fan wanted to punch Walton in the face in 1986. Everytime a big moment occurred, and a lot of big moments occurred for Boston in the eastern finals that year, they always panned the TV cameras over to Walton who was rising his arms triumphantly. Frickin' Celtics...

Blogger DocZeus said...
Tracy McGrady's Knee could easily be used as synonym for this affliction as well.

Blogger DocZeus said...
It would aslo be interesting to see if 20 years of medical technology could have possibly saved Walton's career.

Illgauskas was plagued with debilitating foot injuries that robbed him of a lot of his prime and early mobility. However, he's been a healthy stalwart of the Cavs for the last seven years after going through some special reconstructive surgeries. If Bill switched career arcs with his son, it might bode well for Walton reaching his potential.

Blogger stephanie g said...
I love Walton. I'm sad to see that he won't be announcing anymore either. He was always good for at least one crazy troll line per game.

"The Lakers' jumpshots are falling like leaves in a deciduous forest."

"Robert Horry is a champion of the inbounds pass and of the human spirit."

"Cherokee Parks, establishing himself as one of the greatest Clippers of all time!"

"If Eric Piatkowski continues playing at this level, he's going to replace Jerry West on the NBA logo."

"That was the worst execution of the fast break in the history of the Trail Blazer franchise."

"You look at Vladimir Radmanovic, this guy is cut from stone. As if Michelangelo was reading and a lightning bolt flashed before him."

"When I think of Boris Diaw, I think of Beethoven in the age of the romantics."

“Yesterday we celebrated Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity, today, Fabricio Oberto is defying it.”

"How great would it be to be a big man playing with Iverson? Just imagine all the offensive rebounding opportunities you'll get."

"Kobe will not be denied, on or off the court."

"A timeout controversy with Chris Webber, how can that be?"

“I told Luke, you’re young, you’re rich, and you’re living in Beverly Hills. If you’re not having the time of your life right now, I have failed you as a father.”

Blogger BadDave said...
Who knew Stephanie was a Walton savant? I think I fell in love upon reading the Cherokee Parks line. In love with metaphors!

Anonymous Shayan said...
LMAO at the Sam Dalembert play!!!! What an idiot. I hate that prick, what a douche - he tried to act like a prima donna while playing for the Canadian team and Leo Rautins, Team Canada's coach and also a Raptors TV analyst, kicked him out of the team.

Blogger chris said...
Shayan: It's no surprise that Dalembert is always bordering on lacktion or Voskuhl-izing every time he steps out on the floor.

Blogger Dan B. said...
stephanie g -- I am pretty sure that Bill Walton could sell a book comprised entirely of just random quotes from his TV days, and it'd sell a bajillion copies. I know I'd buy a copy for everyone I know.

Blogger chris said...
Dan B.: If that ever existed right now, I'd demand you make it your Christmas gift to me. :D

Anonymous rt said...
There are only 2 reasons the Sixers are bringing The Canswer back:

1) To sell 5 more tickets every game 2) To be in Basketbawful every single game
3) To enter in to the Epic Fail Hall of Fame

Blogger senormedia said...
Much love for big red.
Any game he announced had potential for greatness.

Also, CELTICS 86!!!!

Anonymous rt said...
I meant 3, as in AI3

Blogger Don Ebay Mølse said...
How can i get hair like Waltons?

Blogger Wild Yams said...
This isn't really related to this discussion at all, but check out this picture of Big Country and Arvydas Sabonis from Sports Illustrated's tribute to the worst losing streaks in history. As a Laker fan it makes me very happy to see Rajon Rondo and the Celtics make an appearance on such a list (from the season in which the Boston faithful chanted "MVP" for Kobe when the Lakers visited to play the Celtics - and they say Laker fans are frontrunners!).

Anonymous Soybean said...
Hey, here's some finicky nitpicking for ya! Achilles' heel was vulnerable not because it was a natural weakness, but because it was the one part of his body that was vulnerable. Achilles injury would have killed even the greatest mortal, unlike Walton, who managed to break a bone in his foot riding an exercise bike, which even the taste-tester of a Donut King would find really hard to do, let alone an average athlete. So while Walton may have been cut down by 'natural weakness' (or perhaps unnatural weakness), Achilles was cut down by normal human mortality.
I ain't sayin', I'm just nitpickin'.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Soybean -- You took my happy.

Blogger stephanie g said...
Dave: More like a Google savant.

Blogger chris said...
Soybean - Except that that was the Exercise Bike of Doom that Walton didn't realize he was riding on until it was way, way too late.

Achilles didn't have any fitness equipment to contend with in his day.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Man, the Suns got absolutely manhandled by the Knicks tonight. D'Antoni's guys outscored his former team in every quarter of the game. Too bad Phoenix can't use that "second night of a back to back" excuse for this one, though they could pull that one out for tomorrow's game in Cleveland if they lose there as well. I wonder if Shaq'll be all pissy playing against his former team?

Speaking of Shaq, Greg Oden seems to be doing the same thing to the Blazers that Shaq did last year to Phoenix, in that Oden's stats are looking great while his team crumbles around him. 20 boards tonight for Oden, along with 5 fouls (naturally), and yet another Blazer loss at home.

Boston clobbered Charlotte and Denver clobbered the Warriors. You had to kinda feel for the Warriors heading into tonight, as you just knew the Nuggets wanted to get that egg off their face from losing to the Timberwolves at home the other day. The Laker bench continues to be god awful as they let the Hornets whittle a 23 point 4th quarter lead all the way down to 9. LA's run of uber-easy opponents has come to an end though, now we'll start to get a better idea of what they're made of.

Blogger Vasco said...
Is Rajon Rondo the PG with lowest FT% ever?

Anonymous Adrià said...
fixidden - word verification

So curious I couldn't resist it...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
StephG...I am giving a history test today to a class of 8th graders and I literally LOL'd at your comment...classic smart-ass Walton.
Another gem:
"Clearly Amare' Stoudamire has been reading Thomas Wolfe's 'A Man in Full' as evidenced by the maturation of his game."

Anonymous Heywood Jablomy said...
Actually, a better term would be "Bowie's Leg", after Sam Bowie, the player taken after Hakeem Olajuwon and BEFORE Michael Jordan in the '84 NBA draft. He must have broken his legs 5-6 times between the University of Kentucky and the NBA... Great player, but never had a chance to live up to his promise.

I also have a lot of respect and admiration for Bill Walton!

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