Bill Walton, Hall of Fame basketball player, two-time NBA champion, UCLA legend, beloved color commentator, has died

News & Politics

Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton died on Monday at the age of 71. The two-time NBA champion passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was surrounded by family at the time of his death.

Walton is survived by his wife, Lori, and his four sons.

Walton was born in 1952 in La Mesa, California.

Walton was a proven winner.

He won high school basketball championships in 1969 and 1970.

He then went on to attend UCLA, where he led the Bruins to consecutive 30-0 seasons and played a significant role in the school’s 88-game winning streak. He won two NCAA championships in 1972 and 1973 under the legendary coach John Wooden. While at UCLA, he was a three-time national player of the year.

Walton was the first overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.

He led the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship while earning the Finals’ MVP.

The 6-11 skilled big man was named the NBA’s MVP in the 1977-78 season.

Walton was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year during the 1985-86 season with the Boston Celtics. He captured his second NBA championship with the Celtics that year.

He was a two-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA performer, two-time NBA All-Defensive player. Walton’s prime years were plagued by foot injuries.

Bill “Big Red” Walton is a member of both the NBA’s 50th anniversary and 75th anniversary teams.

Walton was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Walton’s four sons — Adam, Nathan, Luke, and Chris — all played college basketball. Luke Walton won two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, making the Waltons the first father-son duo to each win at least two NBA titles.

Following his illustrious NBA career, Walton became an NBA and college basketball color commentator despite struggling with a stutter until his late 20s. He was a beloved TV basketball analyst for CBS, NBC, and ESPN.

Walton was also renowned for his love of music, especially the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young. He was known as “Grateful Red” because he attended hundreds of Grateful Dead concerts.

‘Truly one of a kind’

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stressed that Walton was “truly one of a kind” and “redefined the center position.”

“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,” Silver said in a statement.

Silver continued, “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 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. My heartfelt condolences to Bill’s wife, Lori; his sons, Adam, Nate, Luke and Chris; and his many friends and colleagues,” Silver concluded his tribute to Walton.

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