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Bill Walton Passes Away at Age 71

Bill Walton passed away today after a long cancer battle.

Trailblazers Hall of Famer Bill Walton has passed away at age 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was surrounded by family as he took his last breaths.

Bill Walton, Hall of Famer, Passes Away

The NBA issued a statement to announce his death on Monday.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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.”

A Legend on the Court

Walton was widely regarded as one of the most dominant centers to ever play. He was a champion at all levels of the sport. He won two state titles with Helix High in La Mesa, California. Walton’s team won their final 49 games.

At the collegiate level, he won two NCAA titles with the UCLA Bruins. He spent three years there and started his college career with 88 consecutive victories. Walton was the NCAA’s Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons (1972-74). He won Most Outstanding Player in his first and second title games, showing his ability to step up in big games.

He continued his stellar performances at the pro level. Walton started off his pro career being drafted as the first overall pick of the 1974 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. In a career spanning a decade, he won two NBA titles, one with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977 and one with the Boston Celtics in 1986. Walton averaged a double-double over his career. He averaged 13.3 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game, 2.2 blocks per game, and assists per game.

He always found ways to impact the game. Walton won the 1978 Most Valuable Player award with the Trail Blazers and the 1986 Sixth Man of the Year award with the Celtics.

Unfortunately, Walton was unlucky with injuries. Thrice he missed an entire season because of injury. He had 39 surgeries during his playing career, mostly on his feet and ankles, which caused him to miss 762 games over 13 seasons.

“My legs were pretty much shot by the time I got to the NBA in 1974,” Walton wrote.

Life Off the Court

Bill Walton was quite the cerebral and self-reflective man. Despite the many years spent in front of cameras, he found some poignance about it all in an interview with The Athletic.

“It was very sad,” Walton told The Athletic. “I always try to self-reflect, and when you are living a life that is on stage, on camera, out in front, the minute it gets quiet, that’s when the true answers come to you … when it’s too late.”

He was a vocal activist right from his college days, believing strongly in peaceful protests.

“Protesting is what gets things done,” Walton said. “The drive for positive change requires action. The forces of evil don’t just change their ways.”

During the heights of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, Walton became a voice in the counter-culture movement. In 1972, he was arrested for protesting the escalation of the Vietnam War. He always believed in sports players being vocal about their opinions.

Walton grew up with a stutter but he overcame it to have broadcasting gigs starting in 1990. He had stints with Prime Ticket Network, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, and Turner Sports. In 2001, he received an Emmy for best live sports television broadcast.

He covered the Pac-12 for years, often referring to it as the conference of champions. Unfortunately, this news comes just days after the Pac-12 announced its imminent dissolution.


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