Hall of Fame to welcome Bill Walton as guest speaker for 2024 banquet

Bill Walton, whose success on the basketball court led to being named one of the top players of all time and whose humility, philanthropy and perseverance has led to a distinguished lifetime, will be bringing his message to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame.

Walton will be the guest speaker at the 20th induction ceremony on Saturday, April 13, 2024 at the Blair County Convention Center.

He’s excited about it.

“I’m thrilled, privileged and honored beyond description to be the featured guest speaker at the Blair County Hall of Fame in April,” Walton said. “The celebration of the wonders of life, plus the values and power of sport and the people who play them will be on full display.”  

Walton, whose speeches center around the theme of gratitude and “I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” is aware of the Hall of Fame’s history of speakers.

“I get to follow in the giant footprints and shadows of so many of my heroes, mentors, role models and friends,” he said, naming Terry Bradshaw, Joe Theismann, Mary Lou Retton, Greg Gumbel, Doug Flutie and Roy Firestone. “What more could anybody ask for?”

Walton’s visit is being coordinated by the Washington Speakers Bureau, which has worked with the Hall of Fame for more than 30 years. 

“The Hall of Fame is very proud of our legacy of national speakers, and this year is definitely no exception as we’re elated to welcome Bill Walton, one of the most recognizable and beloved figures in sports history,” Blair County Sports Hall of Fame president Neil Rudel said. “We very much look forward to his visit to Blair County.”

Walton starred under iconic UCLA coach John Wooden before winning NBA titles with the Portland Trailblazers and Boston Celtics during a Hall of Fame NBA career.

Three simple words from Wooden – “Do your best” – served as Walton’s mantra athletically and off the court.

Walton, named one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all-time in 1997 and one of the 75 greatest players in NBA history in 2021, achieved that lofty recognition despite missing half of his career because of a foot disorder that led to 39 surgeries on his feet, legs and back.

Walton won two NCAA championships at UCLA and was the leader of a Bruins’ dynasty that won an NCAA record 88 consecutive games. In the NBA, he was the No. 1 overall pick in 1974 and the league MVP in 1978.

Away from the hardwood, Walton overcame a severe stuttering problem through his youth and teen years and developed into a popular broadcaster with networks such as CBS, ABC, NBC, ESPN and FOX.

Walton, who won an Emmy in 2001, currently calls Pac-12 games for ESPN and the Pac-12 Network.

Walton will serve as the keynote speaker during an evening that will shine the spotlight on inductees Artie Fink Jr., Rachel Gehret, Mark Moschella, Tom Turchetta and Alli Williams.

The 2022 Hollidaysburg Little League team, which became the first Blair County team ever to reach the Little League World Series in Williamsport, will be the team inductee.

Bob Pompeani of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh will serve as the emcee following the death of Stan Savran.

Savran was the only emcee the banquet has known, mixing in 30-plus years of humor and perspective since the Hall’s first dinner in 1987.

“Stan’s sudden passing leaves a tremendous void, but we’re very appreciative that Bob Pompeani is willing to step in, and we know he’ll do an excellent job,” Rudel said. “Bob has built an excellent career and is the most recognizable sportscaster in Pittsburgh. He was also very close to Stan.”

Tickets for the event are priced at $100 for individuals and $50 for youths 14-and-under who desire a kid’s meal. Orders are now being taken, and tickets will be mailed by March 20.

Checks should be made out to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame and mailed to P.O. Box 162, Altoona PA 16603. Questions can be directed to Hall of Fame secretary Kathy Millward at 814.312.4753 or [email protected].

Following is a list of past guest speakers at the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame:

  • 1987: Joe Paterno
  • 1988: Paul Evans
  • 1989: Terry Bradshaw
  • 1990: Roy Firestone
  • 1992: Bob Knight
  • 1994: Dick Vitale
  • 1996: Joe Theismann
  • 1998: Mary Lou Retton
  • 2000: Rick Majerus
  • 2002: Bobby Bowden
  • 2004: Jim Boeheim
  • 2006: Greg Gumbel
  • 2008: Hines Ward
  • 2010: Chris Fowler
  • 2012: Ben Roethlisberger
  • 2014: James Franklin
  • 2016: Jay Bilas
  • 2018: Cael Sanderson
  • 2022: Doug Flutie
  • 2024: Bill Walton