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‘Truly one of a kind’: Bill Walton, key member of 1986 Celtics championship team, dies at 71

Bill Walton, an NBA Hall of Famer who played a key role on the 1986 Boston Celtics championship team, died Monday at the age of 71 following a prolonged battle with cancer.

Walton was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed in a statement.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind. As a Hall of Fame player, he redefined the center position. His unique all-around skills made him a dominant force at UCLA and led to an NBA regular-season and Finals MVP, two NBA championships, and a spot on the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams,” Silver said in the statement. “Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary that entertained generations of basketball fans.”

Walton appeared in 80 games for the Celtics in 1986, winning the 6th Man of the Year award. The Celtics finished that season 67-15, ultimately defeating the Houston Rockets four games to two in the NBA Finals to win their 16th NBA championship.

Boston Celtics said in a statement that Walton “overcame years of debilitating injuries, regained his zest for the game, and helped guide the 1986 championship with both his play and his spirit.”

“Bill Walton was one of the most consequential players of his era. A Hall of Famer, Most Valuable Player, and two-time NBA Champion, Walton could do it all, possessing great timing, complete vision of the floor, excellent fundamentals, and was of one of the greatest passing big men in league history,” said the Celtics team. “He derived great joy from basketball and music and deeply cherished his moments with teammates and friends.”

Walton played for the Portland Trailblazers and the then-San Diego Clippers before making the move to Boston, where he played two seasons.

Silver added, “What I will remember most about him was his zest for life. 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 leaves behind his wife, Lori, and his sons Adam, Nate, Luke, and Chris.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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