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NBA Hall of Famer and Trail Blazers legend Bill Walton dies at 71 after prolonged fight with cancer

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NBA Hall of Famer and Trail Blazers legend Bill Walton dies at 71 after prolonged fight with cancer

Invoice Walton was by no means afraid to be himself.

Bigger than life, solely partially due to his almost 7-foot body, Walton was a two-time NCAA champion at UCLA, a two-time champion within the NBA, a Basketball Corridor of Fame inductee, an on-court icon in each sense of the phrase. And off the courtroom, Walton was a persistent fun-seeker, a broadcaster who adhered to no typical norms and took nice pleasure in that, a person with a deeply severe facet in regards to the causes that mattered most to him.

“Invoice Walton,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver mentioned, “was really one among a form.”

Walton died Monday on the age of 71 after a protracted battle with most cancers, the league introduced on behalf of his household. He was the NBA’s MVP within the 1977-78 season, the league’s sixth man of the yr in 1985-86 and a member of the league’s fiftieth anniversary and seventy fifth anniversary groups. That adopted a university profession during which he blossomed whereas enjoying beneath coach John Wood at UCLA, changing into a three-time nationwide participant of the yr.

Denver Nuggets’ Dan Issel, left, guards Portland Path Blazers’ Invoice Walton as Walton strikes in direction of the basket throughout their sport in Portland, Ore., Feb. 12, 1978.

Jack Smith / AP

“I’m unhappy at this time listening to that my comrade and one of many sports activities world’s most beloved champions and characters has handed,” Julius “Dr. J” Erving, a fellow Corridor of Famer, wrote on social media. “Invoice Walton loved life in each approach. To compete in opposition to him and to work with him was a blessing in my life.”

Tributes instantly started pouring in, and the NBA was planning a second of silence to commemorate Walton’s life earlier than Recreation 4 of the Boston-Indiana matchup within the Jap Convention finals on Monday night time.

Walton, who entered the Corridor of Fame in 1993, was one of many sport’s most celebrated figures. His NBA profession — disrupted by persistent foot accidents — lasted solely 468 video games mixed with the Portland Path Blazers, the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers and the Boston Celtics. He averaged 13.3 factors and 10.5 rebounds in these video games, neither of these numbers precisely record-setting.

Nonetheless, his influence on the sport was huge.

“It’s a legend misplaced whenever you speak about basketball and what he delivered to the media facet,” Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd mentioned. “As an ex-player, to have the ability to achieve success not simply on the courtroom but additionally on TV.”

Walton’s most well-known sport was the 1973 NCAA title sport, UCLA in opposition to Memphis, during which he shot 21 for 22 from the sphere and led the Bruins to a different nationwide championship.

“One in every of my guards mentioned, ‘Let’s strive one thing else,’” Wood instructed The Related Press in 2008 for a thirty fifth anniversary retrospective on that sport.

Wood’s response throughout that timeout: “Why? If it ain’t broke, don’t repair it.”

They saved giving the ball to Walton, and he saved delivering in a efficiency for the ages.

“It’s very laborious to place into phrases what he has meant to UCLA’s program, in addition to his large influence on faculty basketball,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin mentioned Monday. “Past his exceptional accomplishments as a participant, it’s his relentless power, enthusiasm for the sport and unwavering candor which were the hallmarks of his larger-than-life persona.

“It’s laborious to think about a season in Pauley Pavilion with out him.”

When Walton retired from the NBA he turned to broadcasting, one thing he by no means thought he may very well be good at — and an avenue he typically questioned can be attainable for him, as a result of he had a pronounced stutter at occasions in his life.

Portland Trail Blazers great Bill Walton is introduced during a ceremony at halftime of an NBA basketball game between the Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The ceremony celebrated the 40th anniversary of the team's NBA championship in 1977.

Portland Path Blazers nice Invoice Walton is launched throughout a ceremony at halftime of an NBA basketball sport between the Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The ceremony celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the group’s NBA championship in 1977.

Steve Dykes / AP

Seems, he was glorious at that, too: Walton was an Emmy winner, ultimately was named one of many high 50 sports activities broadcasters of all time by the American Sportscasters Affiliation and even appeared on The New York Occasions’ bestseller checklist for his memoir, “Again from the Useless.” It instructed the story of a debilitating again harm suffered in 2008, one which left him contemplating taking his personal life due to the fixed ache, and the way he spent years recovering.

“I lived most of my life on my own. However as quickly as I bought on the courtroom I used to be positive,” Walton instructed The Oregonian newspaper for a narrative printed in 2017. “However in life, being so self aware, pink hair, massive nostril, freckles and goofy, nerdy wanting face and may’t speak in any respect. I used to be extremely shy and by no means mentioned a phrase. Then, after I was 28 I discovered methods to communicate. It’s turn into my biggest accomplishment of my life and everyone else’s greatest nightmare.”

The final a part of that was simply Walton hyperbole. He was recognized for his on-air tangents and typically appeared on-air in Grateful Useless T-shirts; Walton was an enormous fan of the band and referenced it typically, even typically recording satellite tv for pc radio specials celebrating what it meant to be a “Deadhead.”

And the Pac-12 Convention, which has mainly evaporated in some ways now due to faculty realignment, was one other of his many loves. He at all times referred to it because the “Convention of Champions” and sang its praises all the best way to the top.

“It doesn’t get any higher than this,” he as soon as mentioned on a broadcast, tie-dyed T-shirt on, a Hawaiian lei round his neck.

Walton was concerned within the broadcasts of faculty and NBA video games for CBS, NBC and ABC/ESPN in his profession, together with stints working for the Clippers and Sacramento Kings as an analyst. He returned to ESPN and the Pac-12 Community, additional touting the roots of his league, in 2012.

“Invoice Walton was a legendary participant and a singular persona who genuinely cherished each expertise all through the journey of his extraordinary life,” ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro mentioned. “Invoice typically described himself as ‘the luckiest man on this planet,’ however anybody who had the chance to work together with Invoice was the fortunate one. He was a really particular, giving one who at all times made time for others. Invoice’s one-of-a-kind spirit captivated and impressed audiences throughout his second profession as a profitable broadcaster.”

However Walton will at all times be synonymous with UCLA’s dominance.

He enrolled on the faculty in 1970, earlier than freshmen may play on the varsity group. As soon as he may play for Wood, the Bruins had been unbeatable for greater than two years — Walton’s UCLA groups gained their first 73 video games, the majority of the Bruins’ extraordinary 88-game successful streak. It was snapped in opposition to Notre Dame in 1974, a 71-70 loss during which Walton shot 12 for 14 from the sphere.

“Invoice Walton’s passing is a tragic tragedy. One of many nice ones in UCLA basketball historical past,” Digger Phelps, who coached that Notre Dame group, posted Monday on social media. “We had been nice mates over time. It gained’t be the identical with out him.”

UCLA went 30-0 in every of Walton’s first two seasons, and 86-4 in his profession on the varsity group.

“My teammates … made me a significantly better basketball participant than I may ever have turn into myself,” Walton mentioned at his Corridor of Fame speech in 1993. “The idea of group has at all times been essentially the most intriguing facet of basketball to me. If I had been excited by particular person success or a person sport, I’d have taken up tennis or golf.”

Walton led Portland to the 1977 NBA title, then bought his second championship with Boston in 1986.

“Invoice Walton was an icon,” mentioned Jody Allen, the chair of the Path Blazers. “His management and tenacity on the courtroom had been key to bringing a championship to our followers and outlined one of the magical moments in franchise historical past. We’ll at all times treasure what he delivered to our neighborhood and the game of basketball.”

The Celtics launched an announcement saying: “Invoice Walton was one of the consequential gamers of his period. … Walton may do all of it, possessing nice timing, full imaginative and prescient of the ground, glorious fundamentals and was of one of many biggest passing massive males in league historical past.”

FILE - Basketball Hall of Fame legend Bill Walton, left, jokes with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during a practice session for the NBA All-Star basketball game in Cleveland, Feb. 19, 2022.

FILE – Basketball Corridor of Fame legend Invoice Walton, left, jokes with Denver Nuggets middle Nikola Jokic throughout a apply session for the NBA All-Star basketball sport in Cleveland, Feb. 19, 2022.

Charles Krupa / AP

Walton thought-about himself lucky to have been guided by two of the sport’s biggest minds in Wood and Celtics patriarch Crimson Auerbach.

“Thanks John, and thanks Crimson, for making my life what it has turn into,” Walton mentioned in his Corridor of Fame speech.

Walton was the No. 1 choose by Portland within the 1974 draft. He mentioned Invoice Russell was his favourite participant and located Larry Fowl the hardest and greatest he performed with, so it was acceptable that his enjoying profession ended as a member of the Celtics. “Enjoying basketball with Larry Fowl,” Walton as soon as mentioned, “is like singing with Jerry Garcia,” referencing the co-founder of the Grateful Useless.

In his closing years, Walton spoke out about points that mattered most to him, similar to the issue of homelessness in his native San Diego, urging metropolis leaders to take motion and create shelter area to assist these in want.

“What I’ll bear in mind most about him was his zest for all times,” Silver mentioned in an announcement. “He was an everyday presence at league occasions — at all times upbeat, smiling ear to ear and seeking to share his knowledge and heat. I treasured our shut friendship, envied his boundless power and admired the time he took with each particular person he encountered.”

Walton died surrounded by his family members, his household mentioned. He’s survived by spouse Lori and sons Adam, Nate, Chris and Luke — a former NBA participant and now a coach.

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