Bill Walton, NBA Hall of Famer who won 2 championships, dies at 71

Bill Walton’s long, strange journey

Bill Walton’s long, strange journey


Bill Walton, the NBA standout who clinched a duo of NBA titles and subsequently had a thriving career in broadcasting, has passed away, the NBA revealed on Monday. He was 71.Walton succumbed to a prolonged fight with cancer, according to the league. He was in the presence of his family.”Bill Walton was genuinely one of a kind,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver mentioned in a statement. “As a Hall of Fame athlete, he revolutionized the center role. His unparalleled all-around abilities made him a formidable force at UCLA and paved the way for an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships and a place on the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.”

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Clippers Game

Bill Walton attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns at Arena on April 20, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

/ Getty Images

Walton was the first overall selection in the 1974 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, and he guided the squad to their sole NBA championship in 1977. Titled the league MVP in 1977-78 and the Sixth Man of the Year in 1985-86, Walton secured another championship in 1986 as part of the Boston Celtics.  

Previously, Walton was a two-time champion at UCLA, steering the Bruins to titles in 1972 and 1973, as well as an 88-game winning streak. His 44 points during the national championship game in 1973 still stand as a record. Walton was also a three-time national player of the year at UCLA under the legendary coach John Wooden.”On behalf of everyone associated with the UCLA men’s basketball program, we are profoundly saddened to hear of Bill Walton’s passing,” UCLA head coach Mick Cronin expressed in a statement, adding: “Beyond his extraordinary achievements as an athlete, it’s his relentless passion, enthusiasm for the game and open candor that have marked his larger-than-life persona.”  

Post his sports career, Walton transitioned into a sports commentator known for his vivid commentary, often filled with catchphrases and exaggeration.”Bill then transferred his contagious enthusiasm and passion for the game into broadcasting, where he provided insightful and lively commentary that entertained generations of basketball enthusiasts,” Silver stated. “But what I will mostly remember about him was his zest for life. He was a constant presence at league happenings – consistently positive, beaming, and eager to share his wisdom and warmth. I cherished our close friendship, envied his boundless energy, and respected the time he devoted to everyone he met.”Walton was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.  This account will be updated.

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Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith is a managing editor for based in New York. A Washington, D.C. native, Steve was formerly an editorial producer for the Washington Post, and has also worked in Los Angeles, Boston and Tokyo.

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