NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton Dead At 71

( – Bill Walton, the Hall of Fame center and two-time NBA champion, has passed away at the age of 71 after battling cancer, the NBA announced on Monday.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement mourning Walton’s death. “Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” Silver remarked. “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 brought his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he provided insightful and colorful commentary that 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 eager 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 who knew and loved him,” Silver continued. “My heartfelt condolences to Bill’s wife, Lori; his sons, Adam, Nate, Luke, and Chris; and his many friends and colleagues.”

Walton’s impact on the game began at UCLA under the legendary coach John Wooden. As a center who could both pass and score, he won three consecutive national player of the year awards from 1972-74 before being selected first overall in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.

Walton made an immediate impact in the NBA, leading the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA Championship and earning Finals MVP and league MVP honors for that season.

Walton’s career was plagued by foot injuries, causing him to miss several seasons, including back-to-back years from 1980-82 and the 1978-79 season after his MVP win. Despite these setbacks, he continued to make significant contributions on the court.

After his time with the Trail Blazers, Walton played for the then-San Diego Clippers and later the Boston Celtics, where he won his second NBA championship in the 1985-86 season and was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year. He finished his career with averages of 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game over 468 games, earning spots on the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.

Following his illustrious playing career, “Big Red” transitioned to broadcasting, where his charismatic personality and insightful commentary captivated audiences. He began with CBS in 1990, moved on to NBC and the Clippers, and then joined ESPN in 2002. Walton’s broadcasting career was briefly interrupted due to back problems, but he returned to call games for the Sacramento Kings part-time before rejoining ESPN and the Pac-12 Network as a full-time college basketball analyst in 2012.

Beyond basketball, Walton was an avid Grateful Dead fan and hosted a satellite radio show called “One More Saturday Night” on Sirius Radio’s Jam On and XM Radio’s Grateful Dead channels. Walton also passed his love for basketball to his children, including Luke Walton, who won two NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers and is currently an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers. His other sons, Chris, Nate, and Adam, all played college basketball.