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Bill Walton and Bear Bryant are forever linked in sports history

The death of Bill Walton was conspicuous for its timing. We all know Bill loved the Pac-12 Conference and was one of its biggest cheerleaders. Everyone has noticed the simple fact that Walton died right after the last Pac-12 sporting event (the Pac-12 Baseball Tournament) ended, and before any Pac-12 teams played a single game in their new conferences. Walton lived long enough to see the Pac-12 complete its final sports season from start to finish. He will not live in a world with UCLA in the Big Ten and Arizona in the Big 12. We all miss Bill, and we wish he was still with us, but one can’t deny the power and poetry of the timing of his death. In dying at a very specific point in time, Walton has become linked with another American college sports icon, Bear Bryant of Alabama.

How are Walton and Bryant connected? It’s actually not as complicated as it seems. Walton’s death coming at the end of the Pac-12’s existence conveys the idea that Walton didn’t want to live in a world without the Pac-12. He died of cancer, but also of a broken heart.

Bear Bryant’s death also carried — like Walton’s — an unmistakable message with its own timing. Bryant died in January of 1983. This was one month after coaching his final game for Alabama in the 1982 Liberty Bowl versus Illinois. Bryant coached for a quarter of a century at Alabama. He coached football for nearly half a century. He was a head coach for nearly 40 years. Football coaching was his life. As soon as he retired, he died.

Bear Bryant loved football coaching the way Bill Walton loved the Pac-12. A world without their first loves was a world Bear and Bill simply couldn’t bear.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire