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Two-time NBA champion Bill Walton dies after ‘prolonged battle with cancer’

Two-time NBA champion Bill Walton dies after ‘prolonged battle with cancer’

Bill Walton, the two-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, has died. He was 71.

Walton died Monday, May 27, after "a prolonged battle with cancer," the NBA said in a statement.

“Bill Walton was truly one of a kind,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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,” the statement continued. “Bill then translated his infectious enthusiasm and love for the game to broadcasting, where he delivered insightful and colorful commentary which entertained generations of basketball fans.”

Silver added that Walton will be remembered for “his zest for life” and added that he was “a regular presence at league events — always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth.”

A former center, Walton played for the University of California, Los Angeles in college. He led the UCLA team to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1972 and 1973.

Walton began his NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers after being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1974 NBA draft. He helped lead the team to its first and only championship in 1977, before leaving the Trail Blazers after the 1978-79 season.

He was also a San Diego Clipper and later joined the Boston Celtics in 1985, where he won a second championship in 1986, before retiring after the 1986-87 season.

He was inducted into the the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993, and he was the NBA’s MVP in the 1977-78 season.

Following his NBA career, Walton covered the NBA as an analyst for NBC, ABC, ESPN and the LA Clippers, according to the NBA. He was also a college basketball analyst. Among his other accolades was a Sports Emmy for best live television sports telecast.

Following the news of his death, the UCLA Athletics official X account posted: “A true Bruin legend that will forever be missed. We send our condolences to the Walton family.”

All of Walton's former teams, the Trail Blazers, Clippers and Celtics, also expressed their condolences on their social media platforms.

Jody Allen, chair of the Trail Blazers, called him “a true legend — an extraordinary plater, talented broadcaster, and vital part of the Blazers organization.”

The Clippers wrote in part, “Bill Walton is synonymous with Southern California basketball: a San Diego native, a UCLA phenom, a Clipper icon.”

In their post, the Celtics added, “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.”

Magic Johnson was among the NBA stars that spoke out after Walton's death, writing on X: "Rest in peace to a friend, 2X NBA Champion, Hall of Famer, and one of the most skilled centers we’ve ever seen Bill Walton! His NCAA Championship performance as a UCLA Bruin against Memphis is by far the most dominate NCAA Championship performance ever — he shot 21 for 22 and had us all mesmerized! That’s when I first fell in love with his basketball game."

"They talk about Jokic being the most skilled center but Bill Walton was first! From shooting jump shots to making incredible passes, he was one of the smartest basketball players to ever live. Bill was a great ambassador for college basketball and the NBA, and he will be sorely missed. Cookie and I send our condolences and prayers to his wife Lori, kids Luke, Nathan, Chris, and Adam, and all of his loved ones," he concluded.

Mark Cuban tweeted, "RIP Legend," alongside photos of the two.

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

This article was originally published on TODAY.com