Monday, May 27, 2024

Hall of Fame big man Bill Walton passes away at age 71

Basketball legend and Hall-of-Fame center Bill Walton has passed away at the age of 71 following a prolonged cancer battle.

Revered as one of the best big men to ever play, Walton won two national titles at UCLA and two championships during his NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers (1977) and the Boston Celtics (1986). He was also named regular season MVP during the 1977-78 campaign, MVP of the 1977 NBA Finals and a member of the league's 50th and 75th anniversary teams.
"Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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."
Walton, whose professional career spanned between 1974-1988 -- played only 468 games due to various foot injuries -- was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 with averages of 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per contest, while playing for the Trail Blazers, San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers and the Celtics.
"Bill Walton was a true legend -- an extraordinary player, talented broadcaster, and vital part of the Blazers organization," the Trail Blazers said in a statement. "... Bill was so much more than basketball. He was larger than life. His upbeat and vibrant personality will forever be remembered and cherished, and he will be deeply missed by our organization, Rip City and all who experienced him."
After five seasons with the Trail Blazers and four with the Clippers respectively, Walton was traded to the Celtics for Cedric Maxwell prior to the 1985-86 season. The 6-foot-11 center played 82 games, the most he had ever played in his NBA career by 13 -- backing up Robert Parish. Walton would average 7.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 19 minutes per contest, winning Sixth Man of the Year honors and his second NBA championship in the process on what many considered one of the best rosters ever.
"Bill Walton was one of the most consequential players of his era. A Hall of Famer, Most Valuable Player, and two-time NBA Champion, Walton could do it all, possessing great timing, complete vision of the floor, excellent fundamentals, and was of one of the greatest passing big men in league history. He derived great joy from basketball and music, and deeply cherished his moments with teammates and friends," the Celtics released in a statement.
"As a Celtic, Bill overcame years of debilitating injuries, regained his zest for the game, and helped guide the 1986 Boston Celtics championship with both his play and his spirit.

"The Boston Celtics celebrate Bill's wonderful life and legacy, and send their deepest sympathies to the Walton family."
Walton ended his playing career in Boston, becoming an NBA analyst for ESPN and ABC in 2002 before shifting to college basketball in 2012. He also worked for CBS and NBC, as he named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all time by the American Sportscasters Association in 2009.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Walton family during this difficult time, as they mourn the death of a larger-than-life personality in Bill.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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