Bill Walton Dies: Basketball Hall Of Famer & Emmy-Winning Sportscaster Was 71

Bill Walton, two-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer who went on to become an Emmy-winning broadcaster for ESPN and other networks, died Monday following a lengthy battle with cancer, the league announced. He was 71.

“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.

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“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. But 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 famously played for coach John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins, leading UCLA to NCAA championships in 1972 and 1973, along with an 88-game winning streak. In the 1973 NCAA title game between UCLA and Memphis, Walton shot a remarkable 21 for 22 from the field. He also won three consecutive national college player of the year awards from 1972-1974.

As the first overall pick in the 1974 NBA draft, Walton was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers, leading the team to an NBA championship in 1977, and earning the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award that same season. He went on to win another NBC title in 1986 with the Boston Celtics. He also played for the San Diego and eventually LA Clippers.

After retiring from the NBA, Walton moved on to a second career as a sportscaster, working both as a studio analyst and color commentator at several networks and teams. He earned an Emmy Award for his work in 1991. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Walton joined ESPN in 2002 after 12 years at NBC as a lead analyst for NBA games, later shifting to college basketball in 2012. He was named one of the top 50 sports broadcasters of all-time by the American Sportscasters Association in 2009.

Former President Barack Obama is among those who paid tribute to Walton.

“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 wrote on X (fka Twitter). “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.”


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