Sport: A Patron Called Papa Sam

The inscription on the framed photograph of Milwaukee Bucks Center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reads: "For a true friend in all seasons." The legend on the picture of Bruce Walton (Bill's brother) says: "Maybe it's corny, but I love you." The object of such unabashed affection is a millionaire Los Angeles building contractor, Sam Gilbert. His own three children are grown, and for Gilbert, 61, U.C.L.A. athletes—past and present—are now his family. Gilbert is their confidant, business adviser and surrogate father. Hence the nickname:

"Papa Sam."

A U.C.L.A. alumnus, Gilbert attends most home games and occasionally travels with the team. Gilbert's luxurious Pacific Palisades house,...

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