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OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti reflects on the late Bill Walton

The NBA world mourned the passing of legend Bill Walton on Monday. He died from a battle with cancer; he was 71 years old.

Walton enjoyed a memorable NBA career highlighted by two NBA championships and an NBA Finals MVP in 1977. The Hall-of-Famer carved out a decorated 12-year career and overcame injury concerns after being the first overall pick in 1974.

Walton proceeded to have a successful broadcasting career. For newer generations of fans, they knew the 6-foot-11 center for his colorful commentary and playful personality.

In his end-of-season press conference, Sam Presti talked about Walton’s impact. The Oklahoma City Thunder general manager never personally knew him but had only heard positive things to say about him.

“I didn’t know him, but I was on a run this morning and I was thinking about him, and the thing that struck me is I’ve never heard anybody articulate their passion for basketball better than this person,” Presti said. “His ability to express and articulate his love for the game that so many other people love is unmatched.”

Presti proceeded to discuss Walton’s time with UCLA head coach John Wooden. The pair had a historic 88-game win streak and won back-to-back national championships together.

“He also came from a group of people that played for Wooden, which he was exposed to what some would say is the greatest coach ever,” Presti said. “He took all those things from his time there… He never conformed to, I think, the way that other people would want him to view the game in terms of how important team is.

“Those lessons that he learned from Wooden withstood all of the BS that comes along with pro basketball. One, it says that he’s special, but also it’s such a great example of Wooden who has always talked about the difference between a teacher and a coach.”

The sports world lost an icon with Walton’s passing. He exemplified living life to the fullest and had a strong passion for the game of basketball. It’s evident he left that impression even for people he never personally interacted with like Presti.

Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire