Like everyone else during the pandemic, Walter Jordan was stuck at home. He couldn't coach his Atlanta-area youth basketball program and needed something to do. After praying about it for years, he sat down and wrote his autobiography.
That wasn't as easy as it sounds.
“It's the toughest thing I've ever done,” the former Northrop and Purdue star said. “People don't know what you've been through. Everybody has a story, nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes. God forgives you for making mistakes, and I'm hoping to inspire one person to live their best life. We've all been broken at one point and time.”
“Gracefully Broken” was released June 16 and quickly climbed into Amazon's Top 10 ranking for basketball books. Though only 162 pages, Jordan wrote about every portion of his life, from the good of helping Northrop win the 1974 state title, to becoming an all-Big Ten player at Purdue and a professional career littered with injuries. He also relives every mistake and every lesson learned from them.
“The hard part is looking at yourself in the mirror and being totally honest with yourself and then going back and reliving the stuff you are writing about,” he said. “The deaths of my son and my mom, being 22 and waking up to being unable to walk. The things where you wish you had spent more time with your mom and your children. Parts where I wish I had just been a better person, where I was not doing what I needed to do.”
After a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery 15 years ago, Jordan, 65, said one major goal was to tell his children and grandchildren where and who they came from. As much as the book is a guide through his life, it's also a journey through his Christian faith and his coming to understand and accept that his wishes should not be primary.
“One thing I've learned is the world is not void of good people, it's void of leaders,” he said. “Everybody lies and wants to live a life that is not transparent. Instead of doing what's right, they want to make sure they are right, and that's wrong. God wants to use us. Everybody has a story, and we all need to share our truths and have courage. You can inspire one person to tell their truth.”
That's the obligation of those who are older, he believes, or how else will the younger generations learn? Use your experiences, he writes, and give them purpose by helping those younger possibly avoid the same mistakes.
“It never hit me until I was going through health issues that my kids probably didn't even know my story,” he said. “My grandkids might not even know who their uncles and grandparents were. I felt I had an obligation to let them know that we are overcomers.”
The book really takes off when Jordan writes about his friendship with future Wayne star Ray Causey and how they were both cut from the Hanna Elementary fifth-grade basketball team. That disappointment drove the rest of his basketball career all the way to the NBA.
The details about the Bruins' state title run are riveting. Jordan said he pulled out the championship video for the first time in 10 years to make sure he remembered everything correctly.
“I was watching and I forgot how good we played defense and rebounded,” he said. “You got one shot against us and that was it. We played great defense as a team, and that's why we won.”
If anything, Jordan may pull out the book in 10 years and wish he had included more because there's more to tell.
“I was telling my wife (Rhonda) that I'm so grateful and thankful and I understand things now I wish I knew at 25,” he said. “I truly value the relationships I've built over the years, my true friends who rally around me. This let me mention everyone by name and let them all know how I feel about them.
“Once you understand God's plan, you see that everything unfolded the way it was supposed to. He has blessed me in so many ways.”