Hall of Famer, NBA Legend Bill Walton Dies At 71

Hall of Famer, NBA Legend Bill Walton Dies At 71

NBA legend and Hall of Famer Bill Walton has died according to a report by NBA officials.

The league released a statement on Monday announcing that Walton died surrounded by his family on Memorial Day after a long battle with cancer. He was 71

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement about Walton.

"Bill Walton was truly one of a kind. As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position. His unique all-around skills made him a dominant force at UCLA and led to an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships, and a spot on the NBA's 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams. Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans. But what I will remember most about him was his zest for life. He was a regular presence at league events - always upbeat, smiling ear to ear, and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. I treasured our close friendship, envied his boundless energy, and admired the time he took with every person he encountered. As a cherished member of the NBA family for 50 years, Bill will be deeply missed by all those who came to know and love him. My heartfelt condolences to Bill's wife, Lori; his sons, Adam, Nate, Luke, and Chris; and his many friends and colleagues."

Walton overcame injuries to become a high school star in California, which foreshadowed how his career would turn out. From there, he went to UCLA, where he became the best player in college basketball under coach John Wooden. Walton won the Naismith Award three times and led the Bruins to back-to-back national championships in 1972 and 1973. His 44 points in the national championship game in 1973 remain a record.

"We are stunned and saddened about the news of Bill Walton's passing," Martin Jarmond, UCLA's Director of Athletics said in a statement. "Bill represented so many of the ideals that our university holds dear and embodied multiple traits on Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success. He loved being back on campus at UCLA, calling games in Pauley Pavilion, and being around our teams. We offer our deepest sympathy to his family, and we take solace in knowing that Bill made each day his masterpiece."

Following his collegiate career, he was selected No. 1 overall by the Trail Blazers in the 1974 NBA Draft. Though his talent easily translated, he dealt with a series of lower-body injuries that limited him to 86 games in his first two seasons.

Walton was finally healthy in his third season, and immediately led the Trail Blazers to their first, and only, championship in 1977, and was named Finals MVP. The next season he won MVP despite playing just 58 games, which is still the fewest of any MVP winner, but broke his foot at the end of the regular season. He returned for the playoffs, but fractured his ankle in Game 2 of the first round and never played for the Trail Blazers again.

In fact, Walton would play just 14 games with his new team, the San Diego (later Los Angeles) Clippers, over the next four seasons due to foot problems. He spent three more frustrating seasons with the Clippers before he was traded to the Boston Celtics. Walton's first season in Boston was magical, as he missed just two games, won Sixth Man of the Year and helped the Celtics win the title. His presence is why the 1986 Celtics are still regarded as one of the best teams of all time.

That turned out to be Walton's last hurrah. He would play just 22 more games between the regular season and playoffs before retiring in 1988.

Walton's No. 32 was retired by the Trail Blazers in 1989. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993, and was selected to the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team in 1996 and 75th Anniversary Team in 2021.

Following his retirement, Walton became a successful broadcaster, working with CBS, NBC, ESPN and the Los Angeles Clippers before stepping away in 2009 due to back problems. A few years later, he returned to work with the Sacramento Kings on a part-time basis, then re-joined ESPN and the Pac-12 Network, where he had still been calling games this season. He won an Emmy in 2001 and was known for his entertaining, and at times incoherent, style.