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Published on May 28, 2024
Hoop Heaven Mourns, NBA Legend and Broadcasting Giant Bill Walton Dead at 71Source: Wikipedia/Here, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bill Walton, the towering figure who stamped his legacy in basketball both as a UCLA Bruins legend and an NBA Hall of Famer, passed away Monday after a battle with cancer at age 71.

During his illustrious career, Walton bagged the NBA's MVP for the 1977–78 season and hoisted two championship titles. His storied journey began with back-to-back championships at UCLA, where he also earned the title of national player of the year three times, Local10 reported.

In a statement obtained by Local10, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, "Bill Walton, was truly one of a kind." Despite a playing career marred by persistent foot injuries that limited him to 468 NBA games, Walton's impact was profound, far exceeding his career averages of 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

Walton's legend was immortalized in the annals of college basketball with his dominant showing in the 1973 NCAA title game against Memphis—an outstanding 21-for-22 shooting performance that is still revered to this day. According to a Local10 interview, UCLA's current coach Mick Cronin said, "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."

After hanging up his basketball shoes, Walton took to broadcasting, where he surprised even himself with his talent behind the mic. His memoir, "Back from the Dead," not only reached The New York Times' bestseller list but also shared his victory over a life-threatening back injury and the chronic pain that nearly drove him to desperation, as he told The Oregonian in 2017, as reported by Local10.

Walton's vibrant personality resonated off the court as well, remembered for his on-air Grateful Dead references and his incessant — though endearing — tangents. His passion for the Pac-12 Conference remained undiminished even as the collegiate landscape around it shifted significantly, adamantly referring to it as the "Conference of Champions" until the very end, as per Local10

Silver, reflecting on Walton's life, expressed how he would remember the basketball icon for his enthusiastic embrace of life, saying, "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 quoted by the Associated Press.

Walton is survived by his wife Lori, and sons Adam, Nate, Chris, and Luke — who carries on the family legacy in basketball as a former NBA player turned coach.

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