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Bill Walton dead at 71

(KTLA) – NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton has died at the age of 71, the NBA announced Monday.

The accomplished basketball center died of cancer, according to ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, who cited the league as his source.

In a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Walton “truly one of a kind,” citing his impact both on the court and in the broadcast booth, “where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans.”

  • Bill Walton
    ESPN college basketball announcer Bill Walton poses for a photo during a college basketball game between the Syracuse Orange and the Gonzaga Bulldogs on day two of the Allstate Maui Invitational at the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center on Nov. 21, 2023, in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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    UCLA’s Bill Walton during game vs Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, on Jan. 29, 1972. (James Drake/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
  • Bill Walton
    Legendary player and now broadcaster Bill Walton in the ESPN booth during the NBA Europe Live Tour presented by EA Sports on Oct. 10, 2006 at the Koeln Arena in Cologne, Germany. (Mansoor Ahmed/Getty Images)
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    Close up of Bill Walton of the Portland Trail Blazers, professional basketball team, in his uniform.
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    Bill Walton during recording session for upcoming video game, Sept. 2, 2001 in San Diego, California. (Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.)

“But what I will remember most about him was his zest for life,” Silver said. “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 started at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden. The pair won national championships in 1972 and 1973, and Walton was thrice the national college player of the year.

Walton was named Most Valuable Player multiple times throughout his decade-long professional basketball career, which began with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1974 and ended with the Boston Celtics in 1988.

After retiring as a player, the UCLA alumni pivoted to sports commentary for college basketball with ESPN, NBC Sports and CBS Sports. He earned an Emmy Award for his analysis in 1991.

Aside from his time on the court, Walton was known for his love of jam bands, particularly the Grateful Dead, and was often spotted in a tie-dyed shirt while broadcasting basketball games.

Despite what the NBA called “a prolonged battle with cancer,” Walton was spotted at this year’s NBA All-Star Game with a smile on his face.

Walton is survived by his wife, Lori, and four sons, Adam, Nate, Luke and Chris.

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