Bill Walton Dies at 71; Basketball HOFer Won 2 NBA Titles, 2 NCAA Championships

Scott LogoFeatured Columnist IVMay 27, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 17: Bill Walton as a part of State Farm All-Star Saturday Night on Saturday, February 17, 2024 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA legend and Hall of Famer Bill Walton died Monday at 71 years old.

The NBA announced his death and noted he was “surrounded by family” after “a prolonged battle with cancer.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement that said, in part, “Bill Walton was truly one of a kind … 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.”

Before he was a champion at the NBA level, Walton was one of the best men’s college basketball players in the sport’s history.

He attended powerhouse UCLA and played three seasons from 1971 to 1974 while building a resume that included two national championships, three Naismith Awards, two Associated Press Player of the Year awards and three consensus All-American selections.

UCLA Men’s Basketball @UCLAMBB

UCLA mourns the passing of two-time NCAA champion Bill Walton, a Naismith Hall of Fame inductee (1993) and charter member of the @UCLAAthletics Hall of Fame (1984).


Walton was a transcendent collegiate star, and the Portland Trail Blazers jumped at the chance to select him with the No. 1 overall pick of the 1974 NBA draft.

It is hard to script a better start to a career than the one Walton enjoyed, as he led the Trail Blazers to their only championship in franchise history in just his third season. As if that wasn’t enough, he was the league MVP in his fourth year after finishing second in voting in that third season.

Walton led the league in rebounding and blocks during that championship season in 1976-77 and then won NBA Finals MVP while averaging 18.5 points, 19.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.7 blocks and 1.0 steals per game in the victory over Julius Erving’s Philadelphia 76ers.

He seemed well on his way to a long and legendary career, but foot injuries undercut much of his peak following that incredible run in Portland.

As a result, he missed the 1978-79, 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons while playing just 14 games in 1979-80 and 33 games in 1982-83 for the San Diego Clippers.

To Walton’s credit, he carved out a second act of his NBA career as a bench presence for the Boston Celtics. He took home the Sixth Man of the Year in 1985-86 for a Celtics team that won the championship and is largely remembered as one of the best in NBA history.

He played just 10 games after that season but was still elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 and named a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team following his career.

Portland Trail Blazers @trailblazers

Rip City icon & basketball legend.

Rest in Peace, Bill 🕊️

LA Clippers @LAClippers

We have lost one of the greatest players and personalities that this franchise, this sport and this region have ever known. Bill Walton is synonymous with Southern California basketball: a San Diego native, a UCLA phenom, a Clipper icon.

He defined the game as a player, a…

Boston Celtics @celtics

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…

Boston Celtics @celtics

The Boston Celtics celebrate Bill’s wonderful life and legacy, and send their deepest sympathies to the Walton family.

That career alone would have made him a forever memorable figure in the basketball world, but he later became one of the voices of the sport for a generation that was not old enough to have watched him play.

Walton became an NBA and college basketball analyst for NBC, CBS, ABC and ESPN. His eccentric approach and catchphrases captured the audience’s attention and never failed to amuse even when the games themselves weren’t thrilling or close.

ESPN @espn

There will never be another quite like Bill Walton.

His ESPN family will miss him dearly ❤️

He won a Sports Emmy in 1991 and was named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all-time by the American Sportscaster Association in 2009.

Some will remember Walton as one of college basketball’s best all-time players, some will remember him as a champion and MVP for the Trail Blazers, some will remember him for his supporting role on Larry Bird’s Celtics, and others will remember him as a broadcaster who seemed to enjoy every moment on air.

He is one of basketball’s most enduring figures, and he is survived by his wife and four children.

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