To appreciate Luke Walton’s childhood is to understand what Christmas was like with the Waltons. There were the standard friends and family gathered around the tree opening gifts, sharing laughs and playing games, but this is Bill Walton’s house. The holiday celebration was never actually on Christmas and when they did get around to celebrating it, they’d do it with anyone who walked through the door.
Bill Walton would open up his Trivial Pursuit game, but it wasn’t the actual Trivial Pursuit game. It was just a bunch of questions he’d thought up and scribbled down on a napkin or a sheet of paper. Get a question right and unwrap a present.
“It was never really a present anyone would want,” Luke Walton said. “It was stuff like power bars and old media guides.”
Walton grabbed a big, heavy box one year and tore through the wrapping paper only to find it filled with every NBA team’s media guide from the previous season.
“They couldn’t even be up to date, current media guides,” Luke Walton said. “He had to go and find the old ones.”
Not all his presents were clunkers. His most memorable gift was a Nintendo when he was 6 years old and living in Boston while his father played for the Celtics.
“Nintendo doesn’t have much of a competition between power bars and old media guides,” he said.
Here is a sampling of Cavs players’ most memorable Christmas holidays and their favorite presents either given or received, as told in their own words.
Favorite present: “Lazer Tag when I was in first grade. I played Lazer Tag with my dad that Christmas for about two hours. My grandparents came to town and took my sister out. It was one of those times it was just me and my dad in the house.
“It was real gloomy outside, so we closed all the windows and all the blinds. All you saw were the laser lights. We ran around the house and played for two hours.”
Most memorable Christmas: “Fifth grade. I couldn’t sleep. I stayed up until 4 o’clock in the morning because I was so excited to open my presents. Then I wound up sleeping past when I wanted. I was going to wake up at 7, but I wound up sleeping until noon. I missed the whole thing. I missed everybody opening presents. I just couldn’t get up. I stayed in bed while everyone opened their presents.”
Favorite present: “My first basketball hoop. It took me awhile to get my own. I was probably about 10. That’s probably my best because I wasn’t expecting it. They were saying we couldn’t afford it, then I went outside and it was already up. I shot on that thing all the time, even when it was cold and snowy. I’d pretend I was everybody. I’d be in my driveway imagining I was Kobe [Bryant], then to get the opportunity to play against him was crazy.”
Most memorable Christmas: “It’s probably that one. That was the first time we could really get gifts. We got presents every year before that, but it wasn’t like that. That year we could actually have some fun. I could actually go to school and have something to show for it.”
Favorite present: “My best present would probably be the iPad2 when it first came out a couple of years ago. I use it all the time. I get a lot out of it.”
Most memorable Christmas: They’re all kind of the same for me because we’d always go to my grandma’s house on Christmas Eve and then have relatives over my house on Christmas Day. All of them were great.”
Favorite present: “I can’t think of one. That first year in the NBA, just being able to give people what they really wanted, that was the best. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I remember just being able to have that feeling of being able to provide for your family. Everybody went from getting a couple of little things, to getting my mom and dad what they wanted. I got my mom a car, but that was before Christmas. There was a lot of stuff I did for them between that first paycheck and Christmas. It all runs together.”
Most memorable Christmas: “We have a big family, so Christmas and Thanksgiving were the two times we got everybody together. Christmas Eve we’d all go to my grandmother’s house. Before she passed, that was the best time of year because everybody would be there. She lived in a small house, we’d all fit in this small house. We were packed. You couldn’t even walk through the living room, but having everyone there singing Christmas carols, watching Christmas movies, everybody brought their favorite dish they wanted to eat.
“Every year having that and knowing you’d have that time where everybody was in one spot. I can’t really put a favorite on it because it wasn’t really about the gifts. It was having everybody there every year. Then the last one before my grandmother passed was my favorite in a long time just because that was the last time I could really be there before I got to the NBA.”
Favorite present: “I got a lot of stuff when I was little. Our Christmas was from the living room to the dining room. That’s how much stuff we had. I can’t lie. I got everything I ever wanted, especially as a kid. Now I get to give back. The first big thing I bought my mom was a car. That’s just the beginning of it. She’s been there my whole life, so I’m going to try to give her the world.”
Most memorable Christmas: “Two years ago, my whole family got together all at once. With basketball, it’s tough for us all to be in the same place at the same time. Last summer I saw Cody at one time and Luke at one time, but never altogether. But two years ago my brother’s wife came down with him and we were all together at my parents’ house in Indiana. That was pretty cool.”
Favorite present: “I’d say this year because my mom is going to be here. There aren’t too many Christmases I get to spend with my family. I’ve got a real Christmas tree this year and everything. That’s the first one I’ve bought since college, I bought one once in college, too.”
Most memorable Christmas: Two years ago I got released by Washington (on Dec. 20) and went home like two days before Christmas. It wasn’t a good Christmas, but it’s the one I remember. Then a couple of days after Christmas, I got the call and came here.”
Favorite present: “The best present I ever got was a BB gun. I was like 11 or 12. It was a pistol, too. I shot people and cars and everything I could. It’s a funny story. We had police security riding around the apartments where I lived. It looked real, like a real gun.
“Normally they put that bright orange tip on the end of it so they know it’s a toy gun, but mine didn’t have one. He actually turned on his lights, drove up on me, jumped out of the car and told me to get on the ground. He didn’t pull his gun, but he told me to get on the ground. I wasn’t scared, I knew why he was doing it. I was actually laughing. I was doing it purposely.”
Most memorable Christmas: “Probably my freshman or sophomore year of high school. I got to see my mom for the first time after four years. I had talked to her, but that was the best Christmas. We just had some family problems, so I hadn’t seen her. It was definitely a surprise. I didn’t know I was going to see her. That was great.”
Favorite present: “The best present I ever gave was when I bought my wife a red Mercedes convertible. That’s when I was playing. We would drive down the street and she would see it and say, ‘That’s my dream car.’ I was like, ‘You ain’t getting that.’ I went and bought it for her, put it in the garage and took her on a scavenger hunt.
“I’m pretty creative. I sent her all through the house getting all these little clues and the last one led to outside. The last thing on the scavenger hunt was a song, so she had to put the headphones on. It was a love ballad, but I don’t remember what song. I had the garage door opener in my pocket, and I was clicking it and opened it up and it had a big bow on it. When she finally turned around and saw it, she went crazy. That’s the best gift I’ve ever given.”
Most memorable Christmas: “Our most memorable one was probably our first Christmas together, just because it was the first one.”
Today will be their 26th Christmas together as husband and wife. Happy Holidays.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.