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Bill Walton remembered by sports world and beyond

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Legendary NBA center and beloved sports icon Bill Walton was remembered by fellow athletes, his former teams and more on Monday after the NBA announced that Walton died of cancer at the age of 71.

Fellow sports stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving and Magic Johnson all shared memories of Walton on social media after his passing.

“My very close friend, fellow Bruin and NBA rival Bill Walton died today, and the world is so much heavier now,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote on X. “On the court, Bill was a fierce player, but off the court he wasn’t happy unless he did everything he could to make everyone around him happy. He was the best of us.”

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Johnson called Walton an ambassador for college basketball and the NBA.

“They talk about Jokic being the most skilled center, but Bill Walton was first,” Johnson wrote. “From shooting jump shots to making incredible passes, he was one of the smartest basketball players to ever live.”

  • FILE – Basketball Hall of Fame legend Bill Walton laughs during a practice session for the NBA All-Star basketball game in <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nba/teams/cleveland/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Cleveland;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Cleveland</a>, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
  • Television analyst Bill Walton stretches before the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Oregon and Colorado, Jan. 2, 2020, in Boulder, Colo. Walton, who starred for John Wooden's UCLA Bruins before becoming a Basketball Hall of Famer and one of the biggest stars of basketball broadcasting, died Monday, May 27, 2024, the league announced on behalf of his family. He was 71. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
  • FILE - UCLA's Bill Walton (32) fights Notre Dame's Adrian Dantley (44) for a rebound during an NCAA college basketball game in South Bend, Ind., Jan. 19, 1974. Walton, who starred for John Wooden's UCLA Bruins before becoming a Basketball Hall of Famer and one of the biggest stars of basketball broadcasting, died Monday, May 27, 2024, the league announced on behalf of his family. He was 71. (AP Photo, File)

Walton’s death also prompted statements from prominent political figures like former President Barack Obama and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

“Bill Walton was one of the greatest basketball players of all time – a champion at every level and the embodiment of unselfish team play,” Obama said. “He was also a wonderful spirit full of curiosity, humor and kindness. We are poorer for his passing, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family.”

Wyden notably remembered Walton’s time with the Portland Trail Blazers. After winning two NCAA titles at UCLA, the Blazers drafted Walton first overall in the 1974 NBA Draft. Walton went on to help the Blazers win their first championship in 1977.

“Bill Walton brought #RipCity our greatest on-the-court thrills by leading the Trail Blazers on a magical run to the title in 1977,” Wyden said. “And for decades after his playing days, he brought an entire nation his good nature on life and basketball. I will miss my friend Bill dearly.”

The Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and UCLA men’s basketball all honored Walton on Monday.

“Bill Walton was a true legend — an extraordinary player, talented broadcaster, and vital part of the Blazers organization,” the Blazers announced Monday. “His mastery of the game not only established him as one of the greatest centers in history, but also led the Blazers to a championship in 1977, where he earned NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. But Bill was so much more than basketball, he was larger than life. His upbeat and vibrant personality will forever be remembered and cherished, and he will be deeply missed by our organization, Rip City and all who experienced him.”

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In addition to his basketball career, Walton was also celebrated for his wacky and insightful career as a sports broadcaster. ESPN Broadcasters and long-time sports reporters Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser both delivered passionate eulogies for Walton on Monday’s episode of “Pardon the Interruption.”

The sports statistics database StatMuse noted Monday that in 10 NBA seasons, Walton won two NBA championships, was a two-time NBA All-Star and was the only player to ever receive all three NBA accolades: Sixth Man of the Year, Most Valuable Player Award and Finals MVP.

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