Immediately after he announced his intention, Walton left for Europe with a touring AAU team. A mere boy among the Army veterans and college graduates, he did not have much fun on the trip, or see much playing time. Once, in Czechoslovakia, he was even assigned to play for the opposition. The Americans won the game, but Walton did so well that he received a standing ovation. His most vivid impressions of Europe, however, do not concern basketball. He was upset by the poverty he saw in Italy and Yugoslavia.
Walton has this compassionate awareness with reason. His father, who oversees 200 employees and some 15,000 welfare cases, has long been concerned with the rights of the underprivileged. "Ted gets involved personally with a good many of our cases," says a fellow worker. "He is especially interested in the ADC [Aid to Dependent Children] program. He does everything possible to see that these kids are provided for, that they can get an education."
Bill Walton is also alert to racial injustices in America. "I don't blame the blacks for hating the whites," he says. "They've gotten such a raw deal for so long." He is taking a course in Afro-American studies, and his black teammates seem to consider him a blue-eyed brother. In many ways Walton is responsible for the unity on this year's Bruin team.
"Last year's team wasn't very close," says a source that knew the UCLA situation well. " Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe had their clique, and the whites had theirs. But this year's team isn't like that. Everyone, black and white, is close."
Walton gives most of the credit for this to the attitude of Bibby, the black guard who is the only remaining starter from last year and the only senior starter on this squad.
"I knew there wouldn't be any problems from the guys on our freshman team last year," Walton says. "I knew them really well. The only problem that could arise, I thought, would be with Henry. He'd be the top man, the senior, and he could just as easily have played the role of Mr. Cool or Mr. Above Everything. But he didn't. He's our leader. I respect him so much. If Henry told me I was shooting too much, or something of that sort, I'd quit it."
Every member of Walton's family has been influenced by the furor caused by his size, talent and success. Ted and Gloria tend to stifle their naturally gregarious ways, preferring to stay in the background, allowing their son to take or leave his recognition as he chooses. Bruce, a star athlete in his own right, has had to accept being known as "Bill's brother" and take the inevitable greeting, "Hi, Bill...uh, Bruce." At Berkeley, Cathy Walton, the family member Bill says he most resembles, is teased about her famous brother. At home in La Mesa, Andy is the double dilemma of having to follow in Bruce and Bill's footsteps. (Recently Andy earned a unique niche within the family by setting fire to their living room. He lit three candles, then forgot them. When he awoke next morning, a table and some phonograph records were completely destroyed, and the wallpaper and rugs were so badly charred they had to be replaced. Andy called in his Helix High basketball teammates to try to clean up the mess before his parents got home from a trip to UCLA, but they only made things worse. Bill refused to come home from school until everything was fixed; Bruce was enraged. "First he yelled at me," says Andy. "Then he started to chase me. I couldn't believe it. He was crazy.")
While his family has to handle fame on only a peripheral basis, with Bill it is a full-time—and often distasteful—job. Whenever he leaves his private room in what was formerly the ATO fraternity house, he becomes an object to be pointed out, gawked at and whispered about. He handles most of this with equanimity. "It doesn't really bother me," he says, "because those people have no meaning in my life." But he also tries to stay out of the public eye as much as possible.
"I realize I can't keep my whole life private," he says. "My basketball life is open to everyone, but what I do off court for my own recreation and entertainment is my own business. I do what I want to do, people don't have to know. Even Coach Wooden doesn't know what I do.
"Everybody expects me to be a certain way. They have their idea of what a college ballplayer should be like—short hair and all that—but I'm not like that. I'm myself. I love long hair. I wish Coach Wooden would let us wear it as long as we like to have it. Some people would really be surprised. They think the UCLA team is a bunch of all-American-boy types, but we're really not. I'm trying to have fun in life and not worry what other people think."