While Rawle Alkins was being peppered with questions by reporters in the doldrums of the Huntsman Center, Bill Walton offered some words of encouragement as he strolled by the media scrum.
“Excellent,” Walton said as he pointed at Alkins. “That’s a champion right there.”
Alkins had just poured in 22 points and seven rebounds in Arizona’s win over Utah in Salt Lake City. And Walton, who called the game for ESPN, came away impressed.
And it turns out Alkins is a fan of Walton too.
“Bill Walton is a great guy. I think he’s probably the best analyzer that I’ve seen,” Alkins said.
So good, apparently, that Alkins re-watches games just to hear Walton’s eccentric commentary.
“He’s a funny guy and he speaks with so much energy and so much passion,” Alkins said. “I think that he actually loves his job. Some guys just do it just to do it. He actually loves it. He doesn’t need the money. He’s already established. He’s happy. But I think he loves it just because he loves the game.”
Walton often approaches players before games so he can familiarize himself with them before going on air.
Walton called Alkins, a New York native, the “Brooklyn Bomber” last year during the Pac-12 Tournament. Alkins didn’t know what that meant.
“I hope that’s a good thing,” Alkins joked at the time.
Comical nicknames aside, Walton also offers perspective to players throughout the Conference of Champions.
Alkins was sidelined for the first nine games of this season after undergoing surgery to repair a broken foot he suffered during an offseason workout.
The 65-year-old Walton, who spent 13 years in the NBA, missed three full seasons because of foot injuries, so he helped Alkins battle through his.
“He actually told me that he had 37 operations on his body,” Alkins said. “That’s crazy. He said 26 were on his foot.”
“To hear that and see what I’m going through,” Alkins added, “I can’t really be upset.”