- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
No, no, no. The medium is wrong. Art—that's it. Walk's life is not poetry as much as art (although he has dabbled in both). He is an ink-and-crayon, 21st-century version of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.... O.K., maybe not. But there is a Bosch-like duality: saints and sinners, beauty and hideousness, heads and tails.
About those the purple platform shoes....
On Jan. 11, 1972, Walk scored a career-high 42 at Milwaukee in a one-point win, a performance that Bucks forward Curtis Perry, Walk's friend, describes as "talent meeting the moment, a harmonic convergence." Walk is humble. In the recounting, he quickly notes that Alcindor, by then Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, didn't eat all 42, that Toby Kimball and others had pieces of it.
The showing was exceptional but hardly extraordinary. Walk averaged 15.7 points and 8.2 rebounds that campaign. The following year he improved to 20.2 and 12.4. That season, at least in raw numbers, was better than the best of Hall of Fame center Robert Parish, who had 19.9 points and 10.8 rebounds in 1981--82.
"Neal came as advertised," says Colangelo. "He had post moves, a hook shot. He was a smart player who could pass and had a little touch. He had to wear the booby-prize tag hung on him by media and fans, but he was a pretty good center. You don't put up 20 and 12 if you aren't."
Ten players in Walk's draft played more NBA games than he did. Only five—Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Dandridge, White, Fred Carter and Lucius Allen—had a higher scoring average than Walk's 12.6. True, he took Phoenix to the playoffs only once, but he was not Darko Milicic.
"I didn't flip the coin. I didn't call heads or tails," says Walk. "I was good enough to play against the best—Kareem, Wilt, Bob Lanier—so in a way that makes me one of the best, I guess. If Jo Jo or Loosh [Allen] or anyone else had gone Number 2, maybe people would have seen my career in a different way."
Right, the shoes....
So Walk luxuriated in the 42. He talked to Phoenix radio. And Milwaukee radio. By the time he strolled out to the team bus that night, he realized that Joe Proski, the Suns' trainer, had already sent the bus back to the hotel. Milwaukee Arena was a 15-minute walk from the Pfister Hotel on a good night. This was not a good night.
When Walk left the arena, there were flurries. Five minutes later, the snow was falling harder. Walk's feet were barking. He was a bit of a dandy—in sixth grade, back in Miami Beach, where he grew up, Walk had favored iridescent pants—but on this night he found a bench, hauled his sneakers out of his gym bag, put them on and, lefthanded, over his shoulder, tossed his purple platform shoes into the Milwaukee River. Walk! From downtown!