Memphis, Tenn. (May 28, 2024) — The Stuttering Foundation mourns the passing of college basketball and NBA legend, broadcaster, and stuttering advocate Bill Walton.

Featured nearly 30 years ago in The Stuttering Foundation newsletter, Walton spoke about his stuttering through childhood, college, and even in his professional career. Following is excerpted from that article:

He used basketball as a sanctuary, a place he didn’t have to think about his speech. “I never had any trouble yelling at the refs,” Walton said. “During college, the teasing was tough.”

Remembering the basketball techniques he had learned from UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, Walton said he “thought about fundamentals and how to start with the basics like ability to mechanically duplicate moves on the basketball court. And I just applied that to speaking.”

When he began broadcasting for NBC Sports, all of the fears resurfaced. Off the court, he was still afraid to talk. He describes his first broadcast as “painful” but knows now the worst is over. “I used to be really embarrassed about stuttering. But now I realize that it’s something that is a part of me…something that I have to deal with and work on every day. If I don’t work on it, I’m not going to be able to do my job. It’s always a challenge,” he added.

Walton served as national spokesperson for The Stuttering Foundation in 1996, during National Stuttering Awareness Week.

“It’s important to know that help is out there. The ability to talk is easily the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” said Walton. “Winning two NCAA championships and two NBA titles was nice, but I knew that was going to happen. But learning how to speak has given me a whole new life. I have been set free.”

Read more on our List of Famous People Who Stutter.

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