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Once again we’re reminded this is the year of fathers and sons in San Diego sports.
Already I wrote, on May 25, about Tony Gywnn Jr. coming home in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers to play for the Padres, the franchise his father led to two National League pennants and graced as a baseball Hall-of-Famer. A statue to Tony Gwynn and his 20-season career stands beyond the right field fence at Petco Park.
Then, on June 8, I wrote about Mac Fleet, the University City High miler bound on scholarship for the track mecca that is the University of Oregon, winning the CIF State 1,600-meter title to match. Fleet’s feat matched the CIF State two-mile title his father, Dale, won in 1971 as a senior at Clairemont High.
Now comes Los Angeles Lakers forward Luke Walton equaling his father, Bill, the basketball Hall-of-Famer, with an NBA championship. On June 14, the Lakers wrapped up the five-game series with a win at Orlando.
What’s interesting to compare is all three sons established their own identities with their fathers determined to remain in the background.
That might sound like common sense, but it’s not practiced in this age of the pushy father (and mother). When the Hall of Champions releases its Breitbard All-CIF teams for high school sports, I invariably receive e-mails or phone calls from angry fathers or mothers that say their son or daughter was slighted.
I’ve never heard from Mr. Gwynn, Mr. Fleet or Mr. Walton.
There are lessons to be learned from Mr. Gwynn, Mr. Fleet and Mr. Walton on how to stay out of the way and let your sons find their own way as they play with the pressure of a famous last name.
Funny thing is, all three of the kids say when the dads stayed out of the way, they had so much fun playing the game that they never felt any pressure.
Luke is the third of Bill Walton’s four sons, but getting Bill to comment on any of his son’s basketball success was like pulling teeth.
But now that Luke is an NBA champion, the restrictions are lifted. He’s a proud papa ready to share his thoughts. Tony Gwynn and Dale Fleet have been the same way after Tony Jr. got off to a fast start with the Padres and Mac won his state title.
With Father’s Day this weekend, I contacted Bill for his reactions to Luke joining him as an NBA champion.
Bill, who missed the NBA season as an ESPN commentator for health reasons, says his cell phones and e-mails have been swamped with well wishers, so he directed me to a column he wrote for NBA.com for his thoughts and to use any of them as I saw fit. Fair enough.
Walton has been generous with his time with me and the Hall of Champions in the past.
As an example, if you want to see Bill Walton’s 1977 NBA MVP trophy from his NBA championship season with the Portland Trail Blazers, it’s on display at the Hall of Champions. Maybe Luke can add some piece of memorabilia from his 2009 championship season with the Lakers to be placed alongside the trophy (that’s a hint, Luke).
Here’s a sampling of Bill wrote in the letter to Luke: “The smile on your face at the conclusion of the game and throughout the locker room is an image that is forever emblazoned on my spirit and soul. Thanks for making us all so happy and allowing us to share in your joy.”
But this was the best — a reminder that Luke was named for Maurice Lucas, a Portland power forward that was so crucial to Bill on that championship team.
“Never forget why you were named for Maurice Lucas.”
— TOM SHANAHAN