MINNEAPOLIS — The tattoo on his upper arm shows five skeletons, hands joined. Sure enough, he's his dad's kid. Luke Walton, son of the old redhead himself, Bill, is a Grateful Dead-head all the way.

For the first time since the pony-tailed, tie-dyed, radical days of the early '70s, there's a Walton playing in the NCAA championship game. This one doesn't play for UCLA, isn't 6-foot-11-inches and isn't likely to score the most points in championship-game history. That's OK with him. As they said in his dad's day, "Mellow out, man."

"I don't put those expectations on myself," says the Arizona forward. "My dad was one of the greatest players to play the game. So if I put those expectations on myself, of course it's going to be hard to live up to."

Good idea.

In Saturday night's win over Michigan State, Walton logged 16 scoreless minutes, with just one rebound. His biggest contribution was slapping teammates on the seat. It's the kind of duty that would have driven his father to madness.

That said, the younger Walton will experience something Monday night that his dad knew well. Bill Walton, now an NBC-TV announcer, was in the title game twice as a collegian, winning championships both years (1972-73). Back then, UCLA produced championships like Nabisco produces crackers. Bill Walton played what is generally regarded as the most perfect game in championship history, making 21 of 22 shots against Memphis State and scoring 44 points. He is an NBA Hall of Famer, honored as one of the 50 greatest players of all time.

Like father, like son, right?

Not entirely.

Sometimes you just have to find your own space.

Face it, there are easier jobs than being Bill Walton's kid. Like being a crash-test dummy, or maybe being named Winston Churchill Jr.

Sure, Churchill saved England, but he never made 21 of 22 shots in a championship game.

That, however, doesn't faze the younger Walton, who has made his place as Arizona's sixth man. He's used to comparisons.

Although he grew up knowing his father was famous, he didn't think it was anything to get excited about. When the family lived in Boston, Luke knew them all — Parish, McHale, Bird. His dad was famous, but so were the guys his dad worked with.

"Everyone we hung out with was getting the same treatment," says Luke. "So it wasn't like it was something super-special. Everyone got treated like that."

Consequently, he isn't all that awed by his father, whom Luke and his three brothers love to razz. In a rare moment, they all watched their father's landmark 1973 game against Memphis State, but the sons spent most of the time teasing their father that he didn't have to face anyone larger than 6-foot-7-inches.

So much for getting psyched out by the old man.

Walton isn't the only basketball name in Monday night's title contest, though. There's also Duke forward Mike Dunleavy. Yup. Son of the Portland Trail Blazers coach. He, too, grew up around famous athletes.

When he was in middle school, and his father was coaching in Milwaukee, the younger Dunleavy didn't play imaginary games against NBA stars. He played real ones against Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson.

Dunleavy, a starting forward, went just 2-8 from the field in Duke's 95-84 win over Maryland on Saturday. He played 24 minutes, collecting three rebounds and four points.

Both the younger Walton and Dunleavy take a predictable amount of fan abuse. Walton has had fans call out, "You're stupider than your dad was." Dunleavy has been subjected to taunts ranging from "Go home and cry to dad," to "The only way you'll play in the NBA is if your dad drafts you."

If they weren't careful, they might even start thinking the taunts are true.

Still, neither Walton nor Dunleavy regrets growing up with the expectations. Both got to play against top-level competition. Both learned great fundamentals. And both never had a day in which they couldn't find an open gym.

"I never let (comparison) stuff get to my head. So everything that I always experienced has been positive," Dunleavy says. "There's not too many negatives that I can find."

Especially when you're playing for a championship.

E-MAIL: rock@desnews.com