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Sioux Falls man paved the way for Bill Walton

todayMay 28, 2024 7

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SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A Sioux Falls man was a constant companion of Bill Walton when the basketball Hall-of-Famer visited the city five years ago.

Walton died Monday of cancer at the age of 71.

A Legends for Kids volunteer says Walton was the center of attention, wherever he went.

At nearly seven feet tall, Bill Walton was a towering presence in the world of basketball, and someone Jim Clark looked up to, literally.

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“I felt pretty small next to him,” Clark said.

Clark spent three days with Walton, accompanying the retired basketball star who hosted a clinic for the Legends for Kids back in 2019.

“As he would meet kids and some of the younger coaches, he would talk to me and say, I’d like you to mentor this guy, or this person. So he was making connections all over the place, making things happen,” Clark said.

During his downtime, Walton liked to see the sites of Sioux Falls, including Falls Park.

“So he liked to stretch out and get big and people would be looking at him and kind of talk and he goes, yeah, I’m that guy and do you want my autograph,” Clark said.

Clark says he was surprised at how approachable Walton was. Yet, due to injuries that accumulated during his playing days, Walton asked Clark for help in sometimes keeping people at bay.

“He said he had a lot of bones in his ankle and feet fused together so he didn’t want to step on anybody, or catch something, so he always asked me to walk in front of him so, so kind of clear a path or keep people at a little bit of a distance, so he didn’t mess with those ankles,” Clark said.

Clark joins the rest of the sports world in mourning the passing of a basketball legend. A giant on the court with a big personality to match.

“They lost a good one. They lost a good one. Yeah. Too bad. Too bad,” Clark said.

Walton was one of the very first sports celebrities to take part in The Legends back in 1998.He was interested in seeing how much Sioux Falls had grown during his return visit in 2019.

The 25th anniversary of the Hy-Vee/Sanford Legends for Kids takes place next week.

Written by: Badlands Classic Rock

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