Our Daily Dread: A backbreaker — what’s the NBA on TV without Walton … .. turrrrrrrible … but he’s got bigger balls to dunk now

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The news that trickled out Monday about Bill Walton, an ESPN NBA analyst since the network’s coverage of the NBA began in the 2002-03 season, deciding not to return to his TV gig with a year left on his contract is hardly surprising. The Hall of Famer out of UCLA missed nearly all of last season while recovering from back surgery. He’s not yet fully back, but the travel really isn’t conducive to him continuing on that path for a while.

But it’s still some closure we’d hope wouldn’t be decided until next season. But Bill wants to move on.

“As I return after a grueling multiyear, life-threatening, life-changing ordeal with back problems, it is time to dedicate the rest of my life to service,” Walton said in a statement released by the netowrk. “It is great to be back in the game. Thanks everybody – for everything.”

Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive VP of production, added: “Bill is a Hall of Fame talent, both as a player and broadcaster. NBA fans will miss his distinct personality. We appreciate all of his contributions to ESPN and share best wishes toward continued health and happiness.”

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Where does the big redhead go from here?

Back to his roots.

Aside from that incredible letter Bill sent to us to use in the Daily News on the occasion of coach John Wooden’s 99th birthday last month (linked here), the cycling enthusiast has jumped into a project with the Pebble Pedalers (linked here) that support two men on their way to raise awareness of the destruction of the Alaskan environment.

Seth and Parker Berling, whom Walton calls the “riders on the storm,” were at San Diego’s Balboa Park last week explaining how they plan to ride their bikes from the northern tip of Alaska on the Arctic Ocean to the southern tip of South America on an 18-month, 17,000-mile ride. They’d already covered 5,002 miles when they hit San Diego.

Their goal, with the non-profit Trout Unlimited, is to “draw attention to the impending construction of our North American continent’s largest open pit mine — Pebble Mine — tragically located on the shores of Alaska’s pristine and spectacular Bristol Bay,” according to Walton.

They left San Diego on Monday with fully-loaded bikes, heading to Tijuana and south toward Mexico and Latin America.

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You want to help Bill in any of his future endeavors, check out his website — www.billwalton.com — to find out what he’s got going. He’ll appreciate the support.

He turns 57 on Thursday. Party on…

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