ESPN will debut the next installment in the Peabody and Emmy award-winning 30 for 30 series, “The Luckiest Guy in the World,” on June 6 and 13. Directed by Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”), the four-part series tells the colorful story of a true sports original: iconic basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton. His life is the stuff of legend: a high school basketball phenom and game-changing big man for the UCLA dynasty; an injury-plagued NBA lightning rod defined by championships and setbacks; a Grateful Dead devotee who remained true to himself, no matter the cost. The series, which premieres Tuesday June 6 at 8 p.m. ET (Episodes 1 & 2) and Tuesday, June 13 at 8 p.m. (Episodes 3 & 4), will be made available on ESPN+ immediately after its premiere, along with the rest of the 30 for 30 library.
Athletes often talk about the love of the game; Bill Walton lived the concept. The Big Redhead, a true free spirit in every sense, lived his life with his emotions and beliefs at the forefront of everything he did. He played basketball with an infectious joy, he embraced nature and spiritual pursuits with the same enthusiasm, and through it all, he carved a path unlike any other superstar in team sports. The film is a kaleidoscopic trip through Walton’s life and memory, accompanied by the soundtrack of his life: the music of the Grateful Dead.
In James’s hands, the story winds back and forth through time and space, from the heights of the NBA in Portland and Boston to the wilds of Oregon, from the chaos of civic unrest and antiwar protest at UCLA to the simple pursuit of being able to live a pain-free existence. Through it all, Walton’s life serves as a colorful, tie-dyed answer to the deeper questions we all face: what does it mean to be happy? What does it mean to be free? Unifying themes across decades and various cities, it is a story of the times – tied together by the perfect soundtrack of the era and, as always, Walton’s ebullient spirit.
Said James: “Growing up, I was a big fan of UCLA’s basketball teams, none more so than during the years that Bill Walton was such a dominant player. I continued to follow his career in the NBA and always felt that he’d had great misfortune to suffer countless injuries, and be vilified for it in the press and public. Walton was also criticized for his outspoken political beliefs and alternative lifestyle. So when ESPN approached me about telling his story, I saw it as a great opportunity to dig into his remarkable career and life. Walton is a true original, and proves the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quote wrong – Bill Walton has had not just a second act in his American life, but maybe a third, and fourth as well.”
The film features commentary from Walton and his family, Larry Bird, Julius Ervin, Lionel Hollins, Jack Ramsay, Artis Gilmore, World B. Free, Ralph Lawler, Brent Musburger, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and more. Advance press screeners, additional information, including film clips and director statements and bios, are available upon request. Follow 30 for 30 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About ESPN Films
ESPN Films has been an industry leader in documentary filmmaking since its inception in March 2008, producing more than 100 documentaries that have showcased some of the most compelling stories in sports. The high quality of storytelling, highlighted by the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 series and the Academy-Award winning documentary “O.J.: Made in America,” has led to record viewership as well as multiple honors and critical acclaim. Additional projects from ESPN Films over the years have included 30 for 30 Shorts, Nine for IX, SEC Storied and Emmy award-winning docu-series “The Last Dance.” ESPN+ is the exclusive home for the entire 30 for 30 library.