UCLA Legend And NBA SuperStar Has Passed Away

Bill Walton, a basketball legend died on Monday at the age of 71 after a long cancer battle. The basketball player was a UCLA legend who went on to become an NBA star. He was also a broadcaster who advocated for the Pac-12 conference.

Walton’s death was announced by The NBA. “Bill Walton was truly one of a kind. As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position. His unique all-around skills made him a dominant force at UCLA and led to an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships and a spot on the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a tribute. “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. 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.”

Walton was a native of La Mesa California. He was inducted into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Growing up, Walton listened to UCLA radio broadcasts and joined the Bruins even though he received many other competitive scholarship offers. His easy going life outlook sometimes clashed with Coach Wooden. However, Walton considered the famous coach a lifelong friend and mentor.

In 1974, Walton was the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, selected by the Portland Trail Blazers. His professional career, though marked by brilliance, was also plagued by injuries. Walton led the Trail Blazers to their first and only NBA championship in 1977, earning the Finals MVP award. However, frequent foot injuries severely limited his playing time and effectiveness.

Walton’s determination and resilience saw him return to the NBA with the San Diego (later Los Angeles) Clippers, however his injury issues continued. In 1985, he joined the Boston Celtics, where he played an important role as a sixth man, helping the team win the 1986 NBA Championship. Walton was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year for his contributions. Despite his talent, his career was hindered by injuries. He decided to retire in 1987.

After retiring from professional basketball, Walton transitioned into a successful career as a sports broadcaster. His enthusiastic and quirky  commentary style, coupled with his knowledge of the game, made him a beloved figure among basketball fans. Walton’s broadcasting career included work with major networks like NBC, ABC, ESPN, and the Pac-12 Network.

Beyond broadcasting, Walton has been involved in various charitable efforts and has written extensively about his life and career. His autobiography, “Back from the Dead: Searching for the Sound, Shining the Light, and Throwing It Down,” offers an introspective look at his journey, including his struggles with chronic pain and his eventual recovery following spinal surgery. Also, he was a huge fan of his alma mater and PAC-12 conference. He nicknamed PAC-12 the “Conference of Champions.”

At the time of his death, Walton was in the company of his family. He is survived by his wife, four sons, and extended family.

Rest In Peace