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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The "Big Man Who Made It Big" Story.

Wally Walker as a high school for Penn Manor High School
It was an ordinary day.  Looking at an old photo of Lancaster County basketball superstar Wally Walker who played basketball for Penn Manor High School from 1968 to 1972.  I knew Wally years ago since he was the brother of one of my friends that I worked with at the Acme Supermarket, Bob Walker.  Bob and I worked for a few years together at the grocery store and had the best time.  Often we would come up with something to do while at work that would either entertain the customers or annoy them.  
Congressman Robert Walker, friend and grape-thrower.
More than once we would grab a handful of loose grapes from the produce counter and take them to our checkout registers to throw back through the store while the customers were shopping.  Other times we would hand out free items to customers; items that had been removed from the store's shelves due to being outdated.  They loved it and often would try to get in our checkout lines to see what we were offering that particular day. Needless to say the store manager wasn't in favor of either, but what he didn't know .... you know the rest.   Well, Bob introduced me to his brother one day and I was amazed at this very tall kid who was as skinny as I was.  Bob went on to become a teacher, as I did, and then became a politician and represented Pennsylvania in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican from 1977 to 1997.  While a congressman I can remember him making a visit to Manheim Township High School, where I was a teacher, to present the school with a flag that had flown over the House of Representatives.  He was giving a speech to the administrators, teachers and students when he looked toward the back of the auditorium where I stood.  He stopped in mid-sentence, looked my way, and said, "Larry, is that you?"  I naturally waved to him from the rear.  "I'll see you after and we can catch up on the good old times at the Acme," he said.  Got a good laugh!  
Wally when Virginia won the Atlantic Coast Tournament.
Wally is the tall player on the left behind the coach. 
Well, as I was looking at a local website, there was Bob's younger brother Wally taking a shot over everyone in a game when he played for Penn Manor, my wife's alma mater.  Wally was so good he ended up playing for the Division I Virginia Cavaliers in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  His 6'7" frame and sweet shot took his team to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship and its first NCAA Tournament berth in 1976.  Wally scored 21 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in that championship game against the University of North Carolina.  
Wally when he played for the Seattle Supersonics.
He is the 6th all-tie scorer in school history and has the 6th highest point average in school history.  He was a first-team Academic All American in 1976 and had his number 41 team jersey retired by the school.  I cheered for him throughout his collegiate career until he was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round with the fifth pick of the draft.  He played a total of eight years between Portland, Seattle and Houston.  Won two championship rings, one with Portland and one with Seattle.  
Wally now lives in Seattle with his wife and three children.

After ending his career in the NBA in 1984, he played briefly in Italy until enrolling in Stanford Graduate School of Business, graduating in 1987 with his MBA.  In 1994 he was named General Manager of the Seattle SuperSonics.  A few years later he finished second in voting for Executive of the Year when the team won the Pacific Division of the NBA.  Then in 2004-05 the Sonics won the Northwest Division, the 4th Division Title won while Wally was team President.  He was President for 12 years.  Today he still enjoys the game of basketball, the game that made him famous.  I'm just glad I had the chance to meet him when he was a young boy and get to watch him on TV while playing collegiate and professional basketball.  It was another extraordinary guy.  

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