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Tony D'Amelio

By: Tony D'Amelio on February 14th, 2019

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A feel-good story for Valentine’s Day:  BILL WALTON leads with his heart

Motivation | Bill Walton

Happy Valentine's Day!

On the day that we celebrate the heart, I want to share a story about a very special man. Basketball legend BILL WALTON is a true gentle man whose limitless kindness toward others reveals deep humanity and enormous heart. Not a week goes by that I don't hear one or two stories about Bill's generosity of spirit, but this one especially caught my attention. 

Last month, MIKE BREEN, the signature voice for the NBA on ESPN and ABC broadcasts, told this story about Bill Walton during his interview with The Ringer:

"I’ll fight anybody, to the death, who says anything bad about Bill Walton," Breen said at the mention of his name. "And here’s the reason why. I’ve told this story maybe 20 times, and 18 of them I wind up crying."

Breen’s dad, John, had started exhibiting signs of Parkinson’s and by 2008 began to withdraw, not wanting to ask for help or be seen as weak. "My brother called me and said, ‘Did you know that the USS Midway is stationed in San Diego?’" Their dad had served on the Midway but hadn’t seen it since his discharge in 1955. They decided to go see the vessel, which had been turned into a museum, while their father could still travel. Breen called Walton, who lives in San Diego, to get hotel recommendations.

"Bill says, ‘Oh that’s great, but you’re not staying at a hotel, you’re staying at my house,’" Breen said. "I said, ‘Bill, that’s so nice of you, but I think my dad would be a little embarrassed.’ To my surprise, my dad said, ‘That’s great!’"

The Breens planned to buy tickets, but Walton called ahead and informed the museum that he was bringing "one of the heroes that served on your ship." The Midway’s commander greeted them personally. "Bill walked every step of the way of the tour," Breen said. "Those knees and back — a 7-footer does not belong on an aircraft carrier."

They stayed for three days. "And for three days," Breen said, "Bill did not leave my father’s side. When we left, Bill was not my friend, Bill was his friend. And it really was like, three of the best days of his life in those last couple of years."


That is Bill Walton; a legend, yes, but someone who lives his life in a deeply human way. In a world filled with celebrity sports figures who are too busy, Bill makes a point of making time for fans who approach him.  The last time I was with him for a speech, he told the meeting planner. "I'll be the last guy to leave the auditorium. I'll turn out the lights." He then stayed after his talk for 90 minutes, signing autographs, shaking hands, and taking pictures. Bill is also the guy with a playful sense of humor who made headlines last week when he ate a cupcake with a lit birthday candle. “I like my food hot,” he told us when we asked, “Why?” Here's the video of that moment:


In his speeches, Bill Walton inspires audiences“Those not willing to risk going too far will never know how far they can go,” he says.  Bill talks about the greatest life and leadership lessons he learned from his legendary UCLA coach, John Wooden. Before his death, Wooden confessed to Walton that his famous Pyramid of Success - which celebrated the 15 essential qualities for success - left out the move important word: Love. That seems like the perfect way to conclude a Valentine's Day blog.


About Tony D'Amelio

Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Mariana Atencio, Chris Barton, Lisa Bodell, Geoff Colvin, Daryl Davis, Suneel Gupta, Ron Insana, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Nicole Malachowski, Ken Schmidt, and Bob Woodward.

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