Bill Walton, NBA Hall of Famer and Emmy-Winning Sports Commentator, Dead at 71

Bill Walton, a Hall of Fame NBA player who went on to have an Emmy-winning career in sports broadcasting, has died after a battle with cancer, the NBA announced Monday. 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. 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.

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“But what I will remember most about him was his zest for life,” Silver’s statement continued. “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. As a cherished member of the NBA family for 50 years, Bill will be deeply missed by all those who came to know and love him. My heartfelt condolences to Bill’s wife, Lori; his sons, Adam, Nate, Luke and Chris; and his many friends and colleagues.”

Walton first garnered attention during his college basketball career, where, among other accomplishments, he led the UCLA Bruins to two NCAA championship victories in 1972 and 1973. He was drafted to the NBA in 1974 as the league’s first overall pick; throughout his career, he played professionally for the Portland Trail Blazers, then-San Diego Clippers and Boston Celtics, and won two NBA championships (with the Trail Blazers in 1977 and Celtics in 1986). In 1993, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Following his retirement from the NBA, Walton went on to have a successful broadcasting career, serving as a basketball color commentator for networks including CBS, NBC and, most recently, ESPN. In 1991, he earned an Emmy Award for his contributions to CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

ESPN was among those to post a tribute to Walton on Monday after news of his death broke; watch their remembrance below.

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