NBA Champion and Hall of Famer Bill Walton Dies at 71

NBA Champion and Hall of Famer Bill Walton Dies at 71

Basketball legend Bill Walton, who led the UCLA Bruins to two national titles and won two NBA championships, has passed away at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer. The NBA announced that Walton died on Monday, surrounded by his family.

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“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “He was a regular presence at league events, always upbeat, smiling ear to ear, and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.”

Walton was the NBA’s MVP for the 1977-78 season and a member of both the NBA’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams. Before his professional career, he was a two-time national champion and a three-time national player of the year at UCLA under coach John Wooden.

Despite chronic foot injuries limiting his NBA career to 468 games, Walton’s impact on the game was significant. He played for the Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego Clippers, LA Clippers, and Boston Celtics, averaging 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. His most famous game was the 1973 NCAA title match where he scored 21 of 22 shots, leading UCLA to victory.

“His relentless energy and enthusiasm for the game were hallmarks of his larger-than-life personality,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “He loved being around our players, sharing his wisdom and advice. I will miss him very much.”

Walton joined ESPN and ABC as a lead analyst for NBA games in 2002, later transitioning to college basketball in 2012. He also worked for CBS and NBC and was named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all time by the American Sportscasters Association in 2009.

“Bill redefined the center position and brought his infectious enthusiasm to broadcasting,” Silver said. “He entertained generations of basketball fans with his insightful and colorful commentary.”

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Walton was drafted first overall by the Trail Blazers in 1974 and won NBA championships with the Blazers in 1977 and the Celtics in 1986. He averaged a double-double over his career, with totals of 6,215 points, 4,923 rebounds, 1,034 blocks, and 1,590 assists. He was a two-time All-Star, leading the NBA in rebounding and blocks in 1977 and earning Sixth Man of the Year in 1986.

Bill Walton is survived by his wife, Lori, and his four sons—Adam, Nathan, Chris, and Luke—who followed in his father’s footsteps into the NBA as a player and coach.

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