By Joe Gabriele, Cavs.com Beat Writer, Nov. 21
When most of us sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, we’ll look around the table and think how unique our family is.
But it’s fair to say that none of us have had holiday gatherings quite like the ones that Cavaliers forward Luke Walton and his family shared growing up in Southern California.
Luke – the scion of one of professional sports’ most iconic stars and incomparable characters – has described parties at his father’s house before: with his dad playing one-on-one games against Larry Bird in the driveway or members of the Grateful Dead relaxing in the backyard hot tub.
If that’s the kind of stuff that went down at Big Red’s hacienda during the year, we were curious what the holidays were like. So Cavs.com got a glimpse of what Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s – or, in this case, a combination of all of the above – was like for the basketball version of The Waltons ….
Can we assume that the Walton family holidays are unlike most family’s?
Luke Walton: Our holidays have always been a little different. Like, between our schedules and my dad’s schedule, we’ve had Christmas as late as New Year’s Eve.
We try our best to get the whole family together, it’s just normally not on the day of the holiday.
How big is the holiday gathering?
Walton: My mom’s side of the family is huge. And my dad’s side: we have me and my three brothers, a couple cousins, uncles, grandparents that all live in San Diego. So we try to all get together for whatever holidays we can. We have a good time, cook it up.
Do you go with the traditional Thanksgiving meal?
Walton: We keep it pretty traditional out there. Other meals we go vegan, but for Thanksgiving, you gotta do the turkey, the stuffing. You gotta do all that. So we keep it pretty traditional.
Do you do the traditional football-watching after dinner?
Walton: We always do football. My uncle – my dad’s brother – played in the NFL; he played for the Cowboys. He was an offensive lineman, went to UCLA and played for the Cowboys for a couple years. And the Cowboys always played on Thanksgiving.
So we always had the football on – which was great for us, because our dad never let us watch TV – except for basketball. That was the only thing we were allowed to watch.
So Uncle Bruce, who is his older brother, is the only guy who can tell my dad what to do. So when he was over for Thanksgiving, football was on. We would do that and afterward, between my brothers and cousins, we’d be in the backyard, doing some sort of activity until it turned into a fight. Then we’d come back in.
Any celebrities ever make it over for the holidays – Jerry Garcia, Grace Slick?
Walton: Well, they’ve all been over there, but not on the holidays.
For Christmas, we kinda had an open-door policy. We’d have friends over. And it was never on Christmas. So they’d do Christmas with their families and they’d love Christmas at our house.
And we’d do Trivial Pursuit – but there weren’t “presents,” per se. It wasn’t like “Luke’s present.” It was like: “Here’s the present, whoever gets (the answer) right, gets it.”
So sometimes our friends would leave with more presents than us.
So anyone who got Trivial Pursuit questions would win your family’s Christmas presents?
Walton: Well, you’d play Trivial Pursuit, and if they got more questions right … yeah.
It wasn’t the actual “Trivial Pursuit.” It was made-up questions from my dad. Completely off the wall stuff – whatever random questions he’d write down on paper, he’d read them, and whoever got the questions right would get to go pick a present out.
Did your family provide the presents?
Walton: My parents provided the presents – my dad and my step-mom. And everybody who played was eligible.
But there was a catch. One time, I got a heavy box and I was all excited. I opened it up and it was every NBA team’s old media guides from the previous year. They were wrapped up. It was whatever stuff he had. One time there was a box of power bars.
So even if you got it right, it wasn’t always the most exciting gift you’d ever gotten.
Does your dad do anything special before dinner? Say “Grace” or a few words?
Walton: He gives “the yell” – it’s kinda like the dinner bell.
He actually used to go in the backyard and ring the dinner bell. He stopped doing that and now he just gives a shout throughout the house that ‘dinner is ready and we are starting. If you want to eat, you better get down here and eat.’
And after everyone’s gathered at the table?
Walton: We have a big roundtable – my dad has a big custom-made Grateful Dead table – it has skulls and all kinds of Grateful Dead symbols on it.
And there’s a big lazy susan in the middle of the roundtable. And once that lazy susan starts spinning, you’ll be middle of grabbing something, and if Big Bill wants something, you’ll be stuck holding that empty serving spoon until it comes back around.
With the Cavs hitting the road, do you have any plans for this year?
Walton: It’s going to be real tough this year. For Thanksgiving, I have my girlfriend out here. So we’ll do a little something after practice (on Thursday).
But as far as the family, I think we’re going to do the usual and wait until after Christmas to get together.