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Published on May 27, 2024
Hoops Heaven Bids Farewell, NBA Icon Bill Walton Passes at 71 After Cancer BoutSource: Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Basketball legend Bill Walton, a towering figure who dominated the court at UCLA and went on to NBA glory, died at the age of 71 after a fight with cancer, the NBA confirmed Monday.

The Hall of Famer's passing was met with an outpouring of tributes from the basketball community, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver describing him as "truly one of a kind" and praising his "zest for life" and UCLA coach Mick Cronin highlighting his "relentless energy, enthusiasm for the game and unwavering candor" according to a news release; Walton's impact extended beyond his incredible skill on the hardwood, he was also beloved for his colorful commentary and genuine affection for the game of basketball, which he shared with fans during his time as a broadcaster.

Renowned for his time at UCLA under the storied coach John Wooden, Walton won national championships in 1972 and 1973, and was a three-time national college player of the year; he starred at the college ranks before bringing his talent to the professional stage, where he continued to shine by leading Portland to an NBA title and snagging the league's MVP award in 1978, Walton's legacy includes his passionate support for the music scene, particularly the Grateful Dead, and his recognizable tie-dyed attire while commentating games.

His death, which the KTLA reported, comes as a shock to many, despite his recent public appearances, including this year's NBA All-Star Game where he was spotted smiling despite his prolonged health battle; UCLA Athletics and Coach Cronin expressed their grief on UCLA's official athletic site, with Cronin stating, “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,” further elaborating how Walton's presence and advice were vital to the team and the university, acknowledging the difficulty in envisioning a season without him there.

Walton leaves behind his wife of 33 years, Lori, and his four sons, Adam, Nate, Luke, and Chris, all of whom followed in his footsteps to play college basketball, with Luke and Adam also carving out careers as basketball coaches. The basketball world loses a true giant, beloved from the courts of UCLA to the bright lights of the NBA, and a voice that resonated through the homes of fans across the nation.