“And then I got to the Boston Celtics, and the biggest problem was that I still had to pass a physical because there’s no way I’d ever been able to pass a physical. But Red Auerbach, he showed up at the hospital. And the doctors are all looking at my X-rays. And I could hear them talking. And I had just left everything back in California, and I’m coming here, moving to Boston, with no idea how it was all going to play out. And so I could hear the doctors talking among themselves: ‘What are we going to tell Red? We can’t pass this guy. Look at his feet. Look at his knees. Look at his hands and wrists. Look at his spine. Look at his face. There’s no way we can pass this guy.’
“And then Red, he bursts in through the double doors at Mass. General hospital there at the east end of Storrow Drive. And he’s smoking his cigar in the hospital, and he walks in and says, ‘Who are you guys and what are you doing with my player?’ And they’re saying, ‘Red, come here. Look at this. Look at his feet. Look at his face. We can’t pass this guy.’ And Red says, ‘Shut up. I’m in charge here.’ And Red pushes his way through all the doctors, comes over. I’m lying on the table there in the doctors examining room. Red looks down at me. He says, ‘Walton, can you play?’ And I looked up at him with the sad, soft eyes of a young man who just wanted one more chance. One more chance to be part of something special, to be part of the team, to be with the guys one more time. And I looked up at him, and I said, ‘Red, I think I can. I think I can, Red.’
“And Red took a step back, folded his arms, and took a drag on that cigar. Oh my gosh. And he held that smoke in as long as he possibly could, and you could just see all the machinations going on, all the calculations, all the deliberations as to how this is all going to play out. Finally he just exhaled, and I swear that smoke came out green. And it was shamrocks and leprechauns up against the white LED lights on the wall. And Red, through the smoke, with a big, cherubic grin on his face, looked at the doctors, looked at me, and he said, ‘He’s fine. He passes. Let’s go. We’ve got a game.’
Walton wasn’t lying. He played in a career high 80 games during the ’86 season. While his stats don’t jump off the page (7.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.1 apg), his impact was undeniable.
Walton released a book late last year, Back from the Dead, and we just happen to have copies to give away.
The first four people who can tell me the Celtics player to wear #11 during the 1985-86 championship season will win a copy. Post your answer in the comment section.