Legendary UCLA, NBA player and broadcaster Bill Walton dies at 71

Basketball legend Bill Walton, who led the UCLA Bruins to two national titles before winning a pair of championships in the NBA, has died, according to The Associated Press.

Walton, who went on to become one of the biggest names in NBA broadcasting, was 71. According to his family, he died Monday following a long battle with cancer.

>> Read more trending news

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “What I will remember most about him was his zest for life.”

Silver said Walton, a regular presence at NBA events, was “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,” Silver said. “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.”

Walton’s storied career began at UCLA, where in addition to two national titles, he was also named national player of the year three times under Bruins coach John Wooden, ESPN reported.

He was the NBA’s MVP for the 1977-1978 season, as well as a member of the league’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams.

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

Chronic foot injuries marred an NBA career that lasted just 468 games, the AP reported. Over the span of his career, Walton played with the Portland Trail Blazers, the LA (former San Diego) Clippers and the Boston Celtics.

According to the AP, Walton’s most famous game was the 1973 NCAA title game against Memphis, in which he shot 21 for 22 and led the Bruins to a national championship.

Wooden spoke about the feat in 2008, on the 35th anniversary of the game.

“One of my guards said, ‘Let’s try something else,’” Wooden told the AP. “(I said), ‘Why? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”

UCLA coach Mick Cronin also released a statement on Walton’s passing.

“It’s very hard to put into words what he has meant to UCLA’s program, as well as his tremendous impact on college basketball,” Cronin said. “Beyond his remarkable accomplishments as a player, it’s his relentless energy, enthusiasm for the game and unwavering candor that have been the hallmarks of his larger-than-life personality.”

As a broadcaster, Walton was well-known for his penchant for Grateful Dead T-shirts and his ability to veer off on a tangent.

“In life, being so self-conscious, red hair, big nose, freckles and goofy, nerdy-looking face and can’t talk at all. I was incredibly shy and never said a word,” Walton told The Oregonian in 2017, according to ESPN. “Then, when I was 28, I learned how to speak. It’s become my greatest accomplishment of my life and everybody else’s biggest nightmare.”

Walton joined ESPN and ABC as a lead NBA analyst in 2002 before shifting to college basketball in 2012, the AP reported. He later worked for CBS and NBC, and the American Sportscasters Association named him one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all-time in 2009.

“Bill Walton was a legendary player and a singular personality who genuinely cherished every experience throughout the journey of his extraordinary life,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said. “Bill often described himself as ‘the luckiest guy in the world,’ but anyone who had the opportunity to interact with Bill was the lucky one.”

Comments on this article
On AirK99.1FM - New Country Logo

The K-Club Newsletter

mobile apps

Everything you love about k99online.com and more! Tap on any of the buttons below to download our app.

amazon alexa

Enable our Skill today to listen live at home on your Alexa Devices!