As Bill Walton confronts Junior Seau's tragic death, he can't help but feel partly responsible. He didn't see it coming, but believes he could have done more to help his friend.
"I am sad, I am ashamed, I am embarrassed that I wasn't there to tell Junior not to give up," Walton told U-T San Diego. "When I think of the tragic scenario of last week, I only wish I could have done more. I talk to people every day. You can make it. I spend a lot of time talking people back from the brink, from the end of the cliff. It's a duty, a responsibility I have. There is an alternative. I now know tomorrow is going to be better."
Walton is no stranger to brash statements, but his words on Seau aren't for show. They come from a place of personal struggle. When the former NBA star suffered intense back pain in 2007, he was immobilized for months and sunk into depression. A successful 2009 surgery improved his condition, Walton admits thoughts of suicide plagued him. "If I had a gun, I would have used it," he said. "I was on the edge of the bridge, seeing if it was high enough and the ground was hard enough. The difference was that Junior wasn't lying there helpless. I couldn't eat, I couldn't bathe, I couldn't walk; I couldn't do anything."
By most accounts, Seau, on the surface gave no indication of a troubled internal world, but Walton regrets he didn't pick up on something. Some sign of his friend's true condition.
"I could never get from Junior that there was pain," Walton said. "He never portrayed that to me. I have failed Junior; I have let him down. But, oh, my gosh, I can tell you that people called me every day trying to help. I'd hang up on them. I didn't want to talk. I turned my back on them. I know now there is a way out; a space. But on the outside, you never saw that something was different with Junior. Now he's gone, and I am sad I didn't help."