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Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton dies at 71 following prolonged battle with cancer

May 27, 2024, 10:46 AM | Updated: 4:54 pm

Sportscaster and former NBA player Bill Walton poses before broadcasting a first-round game of the ...

Sportscaster and former NBA player Bill Walton poses before broadcasting a first-round game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament between the Oregon State Beavers and the Arizona State Sun Devils at T-Mobile Arena on March 08, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Legendary basketball player and broadcaster Bill Walton died Monday at the age of 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer, the NBA announced.

Walton was a two-time NBA champion as a player and won the MVP in his fourth season playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. He also won Defensive Player of the Year twice. He was known for his passion and love for the game, along with his unique character.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind. … What I will remember most about him was his zest for life,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “He was a regular presence at league events – always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth.”

Walton also won two NCAA championships playing for legendary head coach John Wooden at UCLA. He was the consensus Player of the Year in all three collegiate seasons he played.

He later became a beloved broadcaster, covering countless Pac-12 games for ESPN and the Pac-12 Network, oftentimes alongside Dave Pasch.

Pasch joined ESPN’s Sportscenter shortly after Walton’s death was announced and shared somber feelings.

“Sadly, knew about this for a while but still devastated. Bill and I had a special friendship and when you work closely with someone like we did for 12 years and even on the NBA my first year, although he still claims that never happened … He used to take the headset off during a commercial break and just say to me ‘I love you, but don’t tell anybody.’ He just enjoyed the fact that I was his sparring partner and that he could have fun with me and just take shots at me, and I knew that it was all part of the game.

“Off the air, we had a great friendship, Bill paid for every meal. And I remember the last game I had with Bill was February 1 at USC, and it was rare that it was just the two of us … We were kinda talking a lot about the future, and it was just a conversation I’ll never forget.”

ESPN’s Mike Greenberg sent love to Walton’s family in a tweet.

“Absolutely crushed to hear of the passing of the legendary Bill Walton, whose intellect, sense of humor and zest for life were even bigger than he was. He was also, when healthy, every bit as good a big man as there ever was, with a game that was decades ahead of his time – he’d have been perfect in today’s NBA.”

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas called Walton “perhaps the finest passing center of his generation.” When asked what one word he would use to describe Walton, Bilas said “authentic.”

Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic, whose playmaking style as a big man was pioneered in part by Walton, weighed in too.

Former Arizona coach Sean Miller, who had his fair share of games called by Walton, had this to add.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who also won multiple NCAA championships at UCLA under Wooden, said “goodbye to a great friend.”

NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird, who won a championship with Walton on the 1986 Boston Celtics, called him “one of the greatest to ever to play the game.”

 

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